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Fear as OTT threatens everyone’s lunch

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Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators (ALTON)


Despite the new and exciting capabilities offered by over-the-top (OTT) services; there are also risks to the content owners and service providers. And watch out! with bad regulation of OTT services, citizens’ rights are at risk.OTT also referred to as “value added” is a service use over the network services of your service provider.

For instance, if you have a data plan with a mobile operator on your smartphone, then, you use Skype or WhatsApp voice over internet (VoIP) service to make cheaper and free voice calls and SMS using the 3G network. Skype or WhatsApp here is referred to as the OTT service.

It is same as if you stream video on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Google, Facebook and so forth.And it is a clear and present danger. OTT players, are unregulated; they don’t have to have a licence, they don’t have to produce local content, they don’t have to employ anybody in any country, and they don’t have to pay any taxes. Everyone loses with OTT.

Activists insist it is important to regulate OTT to ensure the rights and safety of users. For instance, it’s absolutely vital for all communications services to abide by basic data protection principles, and this includes services that run over the internet.Chuks Arubaleze, a telecom lawyer said that, governments must also play a role in ensuring that companies meet their human rights obligations and respect users’ rights to freedom of expression and privacy.

In Nigeria, telecommunications operators have also called for licensing and regulation of over-the-top services such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp Messenger to generate more money for the country.

Elsewhere, in South Africa, Multichoice, Africa’s leading Pay-Tv provider warned that OTT may eat everyone’s launch if unregulated.Mr Gbenga Adebayo, chairman, Association of Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), insisted that telecom regulators should no longer be neutral to technology regulation.

According to the ALTON chairman, it is technology that is now driving telecom market and not services.“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.Nodding in agreement, Calvo Mawela, CEO of MultiChoice SA, said that it is possible to regulate the OTT players just as with in Europe.

The European Parliament, European Council and the European Commission recently struck a preliminary deal on revisions to the audio-visual media services directive that will see new quotas imposed on subscription video-on-demand services.


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