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South Africa: Mobile firms in WhatsApp row

South Africa: Mobile firms in WhatsApp row

South Africa

Representatives of mobile phone giants MTN and Vodacom are in South Africa’s parliament for a second day, arguing for over-the-top (OTT) internet services, such as WhatsApp and Skype, to be regulated.

MTN and Vodacom are concerned that the OTT services are freely using their networks to provide much cheaper data services, and even making it possible for users to make phone calls, without investing at all in infrastructure development.

But competitor Cell C has challenged this stance, saying the two companies’ attempts to have these services regulated will stifle innovation and investment.

The issue is being discussed at a meeting of the parliamentary portfolio committee on telecommunications and postal services.

It called the meeting to discuss “necessary policy interventions on how to govern” OTT services, following a request by MTN and Vodacom.

Major network operators are losing revenue to OTT services and have expressed their concern.

“The introduction of broadband technologies, networks and devices like smartphones have enabled low and no-cost services that have hit at the traditionally voice and SMS business models that have driven the revenues of mobile models for two decades,” said Dr Alison Gillwald, Executive Director at Research ICT Africa.

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