On-the-top (OTT) internet services, such as WhatsApp, could be regulated in South Africa depending on the outcome of planned Parliament hearings this month.Other top services which include Skye and Google Hangouts, among others allow users to send messages and make calls over data networks, often at comparatively lower costs than traditional telephone calls or SMS.
According to a recent report by World Wide Worx and Fuseware,WhatsApp have rocketed in usage in SA, with more than 10-million users in the country.
Following the sudden growth, SA’s two biggest mobile networks, Vodacom and MTN last year called for regulation of over-the-top services in SA.
Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services, SA said it has scheduled hearings into the possible regulation of OTT services in the country on January 26.
However, a notice of the planned hearings, sent to relevant stakeholders, disclosed that the hearings are set to discuss “necessary policy interventions on how to govern OTTs, regulatory interventions on the guidelines to regulate OTTs” and the “impact of OTTs on competition”.
Other topics to be discussed at the hearings are “ need for the OTTs to be defined as telecom services (voice or data) or telecom infrastructure, and whether they should be subject to licensing and regulatory obligations (such as legal intercept and emergency call access) or not?”