Aus Govt asks Netflix, Stan to lower video quality to reduce NBN strain

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With millions of Australians now working, studying, or entertaining from home to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, many of us are turning to Netflix binges to cope with increasing social isolation. But with so many of us now streaming and gaming at once, it’s inevitable that broadband networks will struggle with unprecedented traffic and data demands.

After a recent roundtable meeting with NBN Co, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has asked major streaming companies, including Netflix and Stan, to reduce streaming video quality in order to help lessen the demands on Australian broadband networks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Guardian reports that NBN Co and other key industry representatives have discussed how to approach security, network maintenance, and increased network traffic during the current COVID-19 crisis. One of the immediate actions proposed was an appeal to video streaming and gaming providers for help in preventing an overloaded NBN, especially at a time when working from home will increase strain on the near-completed network.

The request follows Netflix’s decision to reduce video stream bit rates across Europe and the United Kingdom, a move the company made after discussions with EU commissioner Thierry Breton. Netflix agreed to reduce its streaming quality throughout the UK and Europe for a minimum of 30 days, with a aim to lower bandwidth consumption by around 25%.

How will this affect my video quality?

If Netflix, Stan and Disney+ do decide to limit their video quality in Australia, expect the changes to affect all video resolutions, but to be most noticeable on high-definition and Ultra-HD streams. Addressing European customers, Netflix has stated it will maintain to the full range of available video resolutions, but has removed the ‘highest-bandwidth streams’, meaning the overall image quality of HD and Ultra-HD streams will be reduced.

According to Netflix VP of Content Delivery, Ken Florance, the company maintains many different quality streams in each resolution for each title in its library. In highly impacted European countries such as Italy and Spain, Netflix has now removed the highest bandwidth streams for each program – but the company insists HD subscribers shouldn’t feel cheated during the temporary bandwidth restriction.

“If you are particularly tuned into video quality you may notice a very slight decrease in quality within each resolution,” said Mr. Florance. “But you will still get the video quality you paid for.”

Generally, standard definition video streaming uses around 1GB of data each hour. In comparison, high definition video can chew through 3GB data per hour, and Ultra-HD up to 7GB. If you’re one of the small percentage of Aussie Netflix subscribers on an Ultra-HD plan, you may want to consider reducing your video resolution for now, and even swapping to a HD or standard definition account for the time being.

Disney+ Plans

There are two plan options to choose from – a monthly subscription at $8.99 per month, or prepay for a year at $89.99 and save on the monthly cost. Both plans include the same features, with unlimited downloads and the ability to stream on up to four screens at the same time. This table includes links to a referral partner.

Brand Subscription Type No. of Screens/same time viewing Advertised Cost^^/month or year
Disney+ Logo

Disney+ Monthly Subscription

  • Stream the Disney+ library, including Disney+ Originals, Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel & National Geographic
  • Watch on 4 screens at the same time
  • Add up to 7 profiles
  • Unlimited downloads of shows and movies on up to 10 devices

min. cost $8.99 over one month

4No. of Screens /same time viewing $8.99
Advertised Cost/month
Get DealCanstar Blue receives a commission for sign-ups through Disney+ *
Disney+ Logo

Disney+ Yearly Subscription

  • Stream the Disney+ library, including Disney+ Originals, Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel & National Geographic
  • Watch on 4 screens at the same time
  • Add up to 7 profiles
  • Unlimited downloads of shows and movies on up to 10 devices
  • Prepay for a yearly subscription and save on the monthly cost

min. cost $89.99 over one year

4No. of Screens /same time viewing $89.99
Advertised Cost/year
Get DealCanstar Blue receives a commission for sign-ups through Disney+ *

Will the NBN cope?

Even if platforms begin to offer reduced video streaming bit rates, the NBN is still expected to feel the pressure over the next few months. In response to an early data usage rise of around 6%, NBN Co has announced plans to give retail internet providers access to up to 40% more CVC (essentially, network capacity) at no extra cost.

The recent meeting between Minister Fletcher and industry leaders shows that both NBN Co and telcos are keeping an eye on the situation, and prepared to make further changes to meet rising consumer demands. But if you’re working from home and wondering if your current broadband plan is up to the task, we’ve compiled more detailed advice and information in the articles below.

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Image: Syafiq Adnan/ Shutterstock

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