South Africa’s Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) has urged the country’s mobile networks to find ways to partner and compete with over-the-top (OTT) services like WhatsApp.
OTT services are growing in South Africa, and network operators are concerned about the impact on their revenues.
This resulted in Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services scheduling a meeting this month to discuss the possible regulation of OTT services.
“History tells us that you cannot regulate progress out of existence,” said ISPA.
“Imagine how the GDP-boosting growth of cellular phones in South Africa would have been constrained if Telkom had decided to approach Parliament with the idea that landlines and cellphones should be bundled together in order to protect its monopoly?”
ISPA stated there had previously been suggestions of blocking services like Skype on fixed-line networks, at a time when Voice over Internet Protocol services were reserved for a limited number of operators.
“Since the evolution of our regulatory environments, these services have been liberalised and form part of the value proposition for broadband customers.”
Mobile networks forget that they once were the new kids on the block, it said.
“Their growth was encouraged and look what a wonderful difference they made to South Africa.”
“OTT services have the potential to further democratise communication and drive uptake of broadband because they offer an affordable alternative to the millions of South Africans who cannot afford to make a call or to pay 50 cents each time they send a single SMS.”