The Nigerian Communications Commission is considering a framework for the regulation of over-the-top services in the Nigerian telecoms market.
Over-the-top services, otherwise known as OTT, are services carried over the networks, delivering value to customers, but without any carrier service provider being involved in planning, selling, provisioning, or servicing them.
OTT services are offered through Internet communication. In Nigeria, the most common OTT services are WhatsApp messenger, BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook, and Skype which are classified under social media applications.
In other words, telecom operators such as MTN, Etisalat, Glo, and Airtel lack direct control or influence over WhatsApp messenger, BBM, Facebook or Skype.
Internet telephony and live streaming are also part of OTT services.
The growth of OTT services is encouraged by the access to 3G and 4G networks which offer mobile broadband and high speed IP data.
A report, ‘An Overview of Provision of Over The Top [OTT] Services’ published recently by the Policy, Competition & Economic Analysis Department of the Nigerian Communications Commission, says OTT services were becoming a threat to the traditional telephone network operators.
This development, the report said, is a global issue.
The threat, according to the NCC report, comes from the fact that Internet telephony is not only cheap, and free in some cases, but it also offers many features previously unavailable with telephones, therefore making it more attractive to consumers.
And unlike the traditional telephone network operator, the operators of Internet telephony don’t pay tolls for their services.
Besides, the report said since telecom operators such as MTN, Etisalat, Glo and Airtel do not have control over WhatsApp, BBM, Facebook and the rest of the social media applications, they (the telecom operators) cannot do not generate revenues from services offered through these applications.
The report said, “Many traditional telecom service providers are of the opinion that traditional telephony and SMS revenues are under threat from newer, IP based alternatives like WhatsApp, Skype, Viber etc.
“Similarly, third party web content and social networking companies such as Google and Facebook are increasingly generating huge revenues and driving high levels of data traffic which ride on the broadband networks of traditional telecom operators’.
“To further worsen this issue, the traditional operators still have to make significant investments in upgrading their networks to handle the increasing volume of data generated by the same providers of OTT services.
“Most traditional telephone network service providers therefore argue that unless there is a revenue flow to them from such services, they do not have an incentive to continue to maintain or upgrade the networks,” the report said.
The NCC also believed there is need for some kind of regulation because OTT services portend security risks to the country.
“Because VoIP relies on your Internet connection, it may be vulnerable to many of the same problems that face computers,” the report said.
“Attackers may be able to perform activities such as intercepting communications, eavesdropping, taking control of phones, making fraudulent calls from an account, conducting effective phishing attacks by manipulating one’s caller ID, and causing service to crash.”