The Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services has scheduled hearings to look into the regulation of over-the-top (OTT) services in South Africa.
The committee will assess the impact of OTT services like WhatsApp and Skype on the local industry, and decide whether they should be subject to licensing and regulatory obligations.
MTN has come out in support of these regulations, saying that OTT services are freeloading in the country, and are not paying tax or creating jobs in South Africa.
MTN spokesperson Chris Maroleng told EWN that “services like WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Telegram must be regulated by the government, because while networks have to comply with licence conditions, these services get off scot-free”.
“We have to adhere to very stringent licence conditions and other legislative instruments that regulate our industry and these are done in the interest of both the consumer and to ensure that the industry remains sustainable and viable,” said Maroleng.
“Competitors who do not create jobs in this country, who do not pay taxes in South Africa, [and] do not invest in the infrastructure for these services to be provided must be held accountable.”
MTN provided the following statement to MyBroadband on the matter.
MTN believes that telecommunication operators and Over the Top (OTT) operators can co-exist in an agreed and mutually-beneficial relationship. MTN is committed to establishing an amicable relationship with OTTs. MTN will make a representation to the Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services on its viewpoint regarding (OTT) operators.
Cell C disagrees
Cell C said that regulating services like WhatsApp and Facebook would hurt the local telecoms industry.
“We strongly believe that regulating OTT players could be to the detriment of the industry and consumer at large,” Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos told Fin24.
“Contrary to our competitors, Cell C has been embracing the services offered by OTTs.”
Cell C provides free access to Facebook and basic Internet services through Internet.org. The company also offers unlimited WhatsApp at R5 per month, said Dos Santos.