South Africa’s biggest mobile network Vodacom wants a regulatory approach to data-driven over the top (OTT) applications such as Facebook-owned WhatsApp.
WhatsApp has grown to over 10 million users in South Africa, according to research from World Wide Worx and Fuseware.
And Vodacom, in its interim results announcement on Monday, said that it has experienced a 33.5% data growth rate but that the company had invested R6.2bn in SA to cater for greater internet usage. This follows a R5.8bn investment in 2014.
“A lot of your data growth is driven by the same people who are trying to cannibalise you,” Shameel Joosub, Vodacom Group’s chief executive officer told Fin24 in an earnings call on Monday.
Joosub’s view echoes that of MTN South Africa CEO Mteto Nyati in a recent interview with Fin24.
“You have these players which are getting huge benefit out of an industry without making any investment,” said Nyati.
Joosub went on to call for OTT operators to face greater scrutiny.
“It needs to be carefully considered from a regulatory perspective – there should be some rules and regulations around it.”
However, regulator Icasa (the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) is not currently engaged in investigations into OTT players.
“The Authority has noted comments made around the regulation of OTT services. However, the issue is not in the Authority’s 2015-16 Plan. The matter may be identified or looked into as a priority for the next financial year as we are currently finalising the plan,” Icasa spokesperson Paseka Maleka told Fin24.
Joosub said that the load that OTT providers place on the network could have an impact of the reduction of pricing for data services.
“It will affect the price of data coming down – or the rate of data coming down.”