Telcos, OTT Urged to Collaborate


Emma Okonji

Stakeholders who gathered at the 2019 Telecom Executives and Regulator Forum (TERF), which held recently in Lagos, have stressed the need for a collaboration between telecoms operators and Over the Top Technology (OTT) players, as a means to further grow the Nigerian economy. 

Organised by the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), the forum sought to address grey areas of OTT operations in Nigeria, as they contribute to the revenue loss of telecoms operations, which was reportedly put at $386 million between 2012 to 2016. 

The speakers said there was need for collaboration between telecoms operators and OTT players instead of regulating the operations of OTT players.

Some stakeholders had suggested the need for OTT regulation as they felt that free services like WhatsApp calls, Skype calls, and WhatsApp messaging, offered by OTT players to their customers while riding on the network of telecoms operators, were eating deep into the revenue streams of telecoms operators, and have been causing them loss of revenue.

The Chief Executive Officer, Medallion Communications, Mr. Ikechukwu Nnamani, who featured as one of the panelists, said: “It is true that OTT operations are cutting deep into the revenue generation of telecoms operators, who spent so much money to build the network on which OTT players are riding upon to provide free services to customers, but I am happy that telecoms operators also see the need for OTT players to operate in the ecosystem because they are contributing in driving increased broadband penetration in the country.” 

The Executive Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, in his keynote speech at the forum, highlighted the key trends shaping the telecoms industry to include high demand, disruptive competition growth like the OTT/Telecoms competition, data dominance, and connecting things. 

Danbatta who was represented by the Director, Policy Competition and Economic Analysis at the NCC, Mr. Mohammed Babajika, said the trend necessitated conceptualising innovative ideas within the telecommunications ecosystem as a central requirement for the industry sustainability and investment drive. 

Speaking on the topic: Formulation of Policy and Regulation for OTT–Challenges and Prospects, Danbatta said OTTs were content delivered over the internet, and that their prospects were numerous such as increasingly supporting future service model that are rapidly expanding across multiple communications and digital service domain; growth of smart phones that are affordable, which pushes the demand for broadband; and increased mobility that brought convenience. He, however, pointed out the challenges of OTTs to include data protection and privacy issues among others. He, therefore, said there was need to compare notes with other jurisdictions as regards to the market dynamics, policy and regulatory challenges of OTT services among others.