International Telecommunication Union Global Symposium for regulators has been ongoing in Libreville, Gabon with the theme “Mind the Digital Gap – Regulatory incentives to achieve digital opportunities”. The convention has seen leaders of international telecommunications companies and regulatory authorities come together to explore ways to benefit consumers in the emerging digital economy.
Expected to end today, 11th June 2015, telecommunications companies hope to examine the various investment opportunities and funding challenges in deploying ICT networks, providing access and supporting the development of new services and applications, to bolster access to knowledge in the digital world and reduce the digital gap.
Among issues raised by the telecommunications companies is the unregulated fields in telecommunication depriving the companies of their revenues. Airtel Africa CEO Christian De Faria, has challenged regulators to take action in building a structure that creates an equal playing field for all providers.
During the debate, the Chief Executive Officer pointed out the importance of regulators partnering with telecommunication companies in order to protect the consumer from high internet access rates. In one accord, the telecommunication companies voiced rising cannibalization of mobile network revenues by Over The Top service (OTTs).
In a demography where individuals are fully embracing the use of data, new players have also taken the opportunity to unveil services convenient to internet users and smartphone mobile owners. Facebook, Whatsapp and Viber being some of the OTTs in question have therefore fully established on various telecommunication infrastructure and investment not subject to taxes and regulations as operators.
The telecommunications companies therefore feel the OTTs are suffocating their revenues riding freely on the infrastructure and would in that case recommend that the regulators level playing field for all players to ensure equity.
Over the top service has over time helped regulators reach wider markets through various channels. That being said, telcos advice the establishment of regulations such as licensing among other requirements of an operator. Also, through the help of the regulators, OTTs should also have a tariff framework that will see telcos rewarded for use of their infrastructure.
Free services by the OTTs such as text messages and calls at zero rates have seen telecommunication companies in different states lose revenue over the years. According to Communication Authority of Kenya, Airtel recorded a decline of 9.3 per cent of talk time from one billion minutes recorded in the last quarter. Also, the fall in East African roaming calls has been as a result of increased use of the social media platforms.