NCC May Set Up Regulatory Framework for OTT Services


Emma Okonji

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator, may likely set up a regulatory framework for the control of over-the-top (OTT) technology services.

This will however be made possible if the NCC eventually validates the findings of a study carried out by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) on the benefits and challenges of OTT services in Nigeria.

The CTO report, which was presented recently to the Nigerian ICT industry, will be published on June 19, 2018, and it will present key issues and recommendations on OTT services.

The CTO report was sequel to a stakeholders’ consultation session that was organised by the NCC on May 30. It was expected to provide the industry with an opportunity to discuss and validate the findings.

The Secretary-General of CTO, Mr. Shola Taylor, underlined the need for regulatory responses to OTT services that are tailored to the context of each Commonwealth country.

“Following the widespread use of OTTs and ICTs, and the emergence of data security issues, some of which are not limited by physical jurisdictions and cross-national borders, it is vital that Nigeria establishes legislation on data protection and privacy which ensures the protection of personal data in Nigeria,” Taylor said.

Participants at the event discussed the findings of the study, underlining specific issues and recommendations which are relevant to the Nigerian context.

The Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management at NCC, Mr. Sunday Dare said: “It has now become vital for Nigeria to come up with regulatory approaches that not only address the peculiarities of the Nigerian ‘OTT’ context but also ensure positive outcomes for consumers, traditional service providers, OTTs, and the federal government. The CTO’s OTT report is an excellent start to doing just that.”

The OTT services are rendered by social network providers who ride on the infrastructure of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) like MTN, Globacom, Airtel, among other GSM operators, to offer free voice and instant massaging services such as: WhatsApp, WeChat, Skype, Facebook, Viber, Imo, at no cost to the subscribers.

The Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, had raised concern that social network operators do not invest in infrastructure, but ride on the infrastructure of MNOs to provide free services to customers at the detriment of MNOs who have invested so much to build their infrastructure and are still investing in the maintenance of such telecoms infrastructure.

He said the new development was causing MNOs to lose revenue strings hitherto coming from their voice and data services, because subscribers now prefer to patronise the social network operators who provide the services at no cost to the subscriber.

Adebayo had last year, called on NCC to consider the regulation of OTT services but NCC made it clear at that time that it was not ready to regulate the OTT technology in order to avoid a process that would lead to the stifling of technology advancement in Nigeria.

CTO is the oldest and largest Commonwealth intergovernmental organisation in the field of information and communication technologies. With a diverse membership spanning developed and least developed countries, the CTO aims to become a trusted partner for sustainable development for all through ICTs.