The use of the Internet and telephony explodes at the time of confinement. Telecommunications operators assure that the networks can hold up, but ask the French to show civility in their consumption.
At the time of confinement, the nearly 67 million French people called to stay at home are rushing to the Internet and telephone networks. Teleworking, online courses for children on the platform of the Ministry of Education, streaming series to overcome boredom … Faced with this extraordinary influx, will the network hold up? Should we fear saturation?
Contacted by France 24, the French Telecoms Federation (FFT) indicates that since President Emmanuel Macron’s speech Monday, March 16, telework has increased ninefold, the volume of telephone calls and videoconferences has tripled and exchanges on dialogue applications such as WhatsApp or Messenger have increased fivefold.
In the French countryside, where the network capacity is less, the influx of city dwellers since the announcement of confinement could make things worse.
“Operators are used to managing peaks in the use of their networks [lors de grands évènements sportifs ou des célébrations du Nouvel an, NDLR], but the novelty this time is that consumption is very important continuously and over time “, explains the FFT.
For this structure which represents all the French telecommunication operators, there is no reason to worry yet: “The 15,000 technicians and engineers are hard at work and we are very attentive to developments of the situation hour by hour in connection with all the actors of the sector and the government “. “We are watching this like milk on fire,” said Sebastien Soriano, president of Arcep.
Worried if the increase in traffic continues
According to the telecommunications gendarme, there is “no proven case of congestion”. Joined by France 24, the French control body believes that saturation is still on the order of “the assumption”. However, if the French network is rather “well sized”, its capacities are not infinite.
It is over time that the increase in traffic worries Arcep and the French telecommunications players, in particular the Secretary of State for Digital. “We have, in the very short term, that is to say within a few days, no systemic fear, but things can change very quickly,” Cedric O told the weekly on Thursday. Point.
For comparison, theItaly who has been living in confinement since March 10, saw its Internet traffic on the fixed network jump by 70% at Telecom Italia. As for Spain, the networks are experiencing an increase in traffic of almost 40%. Mobile phone use has increased by about 50% for calls and 25% for data, according to operator Telefonica. Enough to worry about overheating infrastructure.
Netflix and Youtube reduce speed in Europe
“Telework generally consumes little bandwidth and should not pose a load problem,” says Arcep. The real problem is the videos. The most consumer uses are undoubtedly games and streaming, whether television channels provided by the operator (including VOD), or services accessible via the network, such as Netflix or myCanal.
To remedy this and avoid congestion, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, called on Thursday morning the streaming platforms to reduce the quality of video streams. An appeal immediately followed in fact. In the evening, Netflix announced a 25% reduction in its speed in Europe. YouTube in turn responded to European demands on Friday by lowering the broadcast quality of its streaming service in Europe for 30 days.
The operators demand an effort from the French
Streaming platforms are not the only ones to be contacted. A citizen effort is also requested from all French people. Arcep, but also telephone operators, are calling for better use of networks during confinement, and in particular to favor wifi rather than mobile data when possible. They also invite you to download during off-peak hours, preferably at night.
On the Arcep website, specialists offer a series of tips to adopt between family members to optimize its wifi network and separate breast uses in the same house. “Most connection problems are linked to the use of the network within a home and not necessarily to the operator,” notes Henri Tcheng, partner responsible for the telecoms sector within the consulting firm BearingPoint, contacted by France 24.
He doesn’t fear network saturation either. “It is enough to lower the quality of the service which can completely function in ‘degraded mode’, as for the playback of a video in standard definition instead of high definition”, he explains.
Lack of masks for technicians
“On the other hand, what we can fear is the overheating of the equipment. The servers which bring the flow will run at full speed, there may be breakdowns. Then the technicians of the operators will have to have the possibility of moving to repair them, “warns Henri Tcheng.
Hence the call launched by the CEO of Orange, Stephane Richard who asked for additional masks for his field teams. “We still have a few thousand masks, still enough to hold for a few days,” he said on RTL.
Orange has handed over stocks to the State to comply with the requisitions for healthcare staff, like the other large French companies, but is waiting with “great impatience” to receive new masks for these teams responsible for maintaining the networks. “We ordered 20,000 or 30,000 more, we absolutely need this equipment to also reassure our staff and that they can get to the site,” added Stephane Richard.
Finally as a last resort, Arcep explains that European regulations allow operators to restrict this or that service in order to give priority to priority. A breach of the European rule of Internet neutrality – a principle which imposes the free circulation of data on networks – which would only be authorized in the event of “exceptional saturation”.
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