WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and many other over-the-top Internet services have taken over the world of communication with their free offerings, allowing users to enjoy free messaging and calling.
While these apps are marketed as free messaging and calling services, they are not entirely free. You need to have an internet plan to access their services. These internet services are not provided by the companies behind these apps, rather, they are provided by the telecom service providers in each country across the globe.
In the recent past, WhatsApp, the leading provider of messaging and voice calling services over the internet, has been receiving impromptu bans, with others well-planned. It has happened in Brazil, India, Pakistan, Morocco and it is soon happening in South Africa. While the telcos having issues with the usage of WhatsApp in these different countries have no problem with messaging services on offer, they have a problem with the VoIP services being offered by this app.
For instance, Moroccan and Indian carriers claim that these companies have taken over the services that they have been licensed by their governments to provide to their citizens, yet they pay nothing for doing the same. India, for instance, has more than 70 million users of WhatsApp, something that would be a massive loss for the company if it is successfully blocked in the country.
Speaking of huge user bases, South Africa, which will be holding a meeting through its parliament, later on, this month to determine the legality of OTT services in the country has more than 10 million WhatsApp users. As a result, the largest mobile network providers in the country – MTN and Vodacom – want the usage of this app and other similar service providers regulated.
According to the served notice, the hearing will be aimed at finding the most suitable policy interventions that will govern these OTTs as well as regulatory interventions on the guidelines regulating OTTs. The sitting will also discuss the impact these OTTs are having or rather a type of competition they are bringing to the table.
Another very crucial issue that will be discussed during this hearing is whether there is a need to classify OTTs as telecom service providers or simply as telecom infrastructure. This will result in the determination of whether they should be licensed and regulated just like telcos are or not.
The meeting will be open to the public, and it is scheduled for January 26.
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