Stakeholders Kick against Call to Regulate OTT Services

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Emma Okonji

More stakeholders in the the telecoms sector have continued to speak against the call for the regulation of over-the-top-technology (OTT) services in the country, insisting that its regulation will stifle technology development in the telecoms sector.

Country Manager, Ericsson Nigeria, Johan Jemdahl, who joined other stakeholders in condemning the call, told THISDAY in an interview that any attempt to heed to the voices of those calling for the regulation of OTT services in Nigeria, would result in stifling telecoms growth in the country.

“You cannot stop technology evolution. OTT services should not be regulated in any form. What the operators who feel threatened about the OTT services should do, is to look for alternative means to generate money, instead of fighting OTT operators. The regulator on the other hand, must not do anything that could stifle technology growth in the country,” Jemdahl said.

According to him, over the years, technologies have been evolving globally and any attempt to regulate these technologies in some countries of the world, would mean stifling the growth of technology in such countries, and advised telecoms operators not to feel threatened by the services rendered by OTT service providers, but should begin to think of innovative ways to serve their customers, without running out of business.

We have over 180 countries in the world, and it is therefore wrong for any country to regulate a particular technology like the OTT technology, when the same technology is operated freely in other countries of the world. If it can work in US and other parts of Europe, them I do not see any reason why it should not work in Nigeria. Regulating it in Nigeria will therefore adversely affect technology development in the country, Jemdahl added.

Immediate past President of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Lanre Ajayi also condemned calls for the regulation of OTT services, explaining it will slow down growth in the telecoms sector.

Recently, telecoms operators felt threatened by the services of OTT players who offer free internet calls on certain platforms like Skype, Viber, Wechat and WahtsApp, that ride on the internet backbone, which automatically rides over and above the platforms of telecommunications operators.

The OTT players use Internet Protocol (IP) based channel in offering free voice service.
Disturbed that the new service offering will affect their revenue generation on voice calls, most of the operators were calling for the regulation of the OTT services in Nigeria.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator has however said it has no plans to regulate OTT services in the country, but stakeholders are afraid that mounting continuous pressure on NCC may make the regulatory body give in to the arguments of telecoms operators.

But according to NCC, the commission has no plan to regulate OTT services because telecommunication services in general have transited from first generation cellular networks to third and more recently fourth generation networks, which largely ride on Internet Protocol in various parts of the world.
Technology evolution has involved shifts from the use of visual signals such as beacons, smoke signals, semaphore telegraphs, signal flags, and optical heliographs, to telegraphs, telephones as well as the use of the orbiting satellites and the Internet, NCC said in a statement.

The access to 3G and 4G networks, which offer mobile broadband and high speed IP data networks, have further encouraged the uptake and growth of new modes of communication such as the OTT services, which in turn enables the provision of services such as live streaming and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), the statement further said.