Over-the-top (OTT) services are now comfortably eating lunch of the telecommunications industry by de-layering that space.It is not only telecommunications that is affected. Internet television over broadband fixed and mobile networks is de-stabilising existing broadcasting industries.
These services carried over the networks, delivering value to customers, but without any carrier service provider being involved in planning, selling, provisioning, or servicing them must be checked.It cannot be right that a company providing traditional telecommunications services has to meet certain regulatory requirements, like those concerning data protection, while a company providing comparable services over the web does not.
Apart from the cries from the telcos; licensing and regulation of over-the-top services such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp Messenger can generate more money for Nigeria.Countries like Germany are already thinking along this line and are calling for regulation of mobile instant messaging and email service providers to the same degree as telecommunications companies.
For Association of Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), the umbrella body of telecom operators in the country, it will mean respite. Gbenga Adebayo, chairman, ALTON, “We are beginning to see the need for regulators to look at regulating technology instead of services.
“For example, the likes of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Blackberry Messenger and many others are called over-the-top services that are not part of the core services for which operators are licensed.“These over-the-top services have social, economic and security implications. If they are not licensed, it means they are not regulated, and in that case, there is no limit to the scope of what they can do. There is also no control over services and content they may provide,” he said.
Nowadays, people send messages mostly on WhatsApp and some other social media platforms than they do on the conventional SMS services.Worldwide, there is about the activities of these modern day service providers who have been accused of “eating the lunch of the traditional operators” as they (OTT service providers) make money out of the investment and sweat of others.
But Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said that it has no plans to regulate OTT services.Professor Garba Danbatta, executive vice chairman, NCC, while acknowledging the impact of disruptive technology in the sector and the challenges it poses to telcos in terms of competition for market share, encouraged network providers in Nigeria to innovate.
Human rights activists however said that though regulation can be necessary to protect users’ rights – like it is to ensure data protection – some regulatory proposals risk our right to freedom of expression and can also thwart economic, social, and cultural rights.Nelson Ceasar Obidile urged that regulator to be mindful of right-harming policy if it decides to regulate OTT.