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Business News of Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Source: Graphic.com.gh

Diversion of int’l calls onto OTT platforms worrying - NCA

The National Communications Authority (NCA), has observed an increasing trend of international telephone calls being diverted onto over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Viber and WhatsApp, resulting in the loss of revenue to the authority and the country as a whole.

This notwithstanding, the authority insists that it was not contemplating banning the operations of such platforms in the country.
Instead, the Director of Regulations and Administration NCA, Mr Paul Kofi Datse, said his outfit had resolved to work closely with the relevant stakeholders, including the telecommunications companies, in finding a lasting solution to the development.

Speaking at a public forum on the issue in Accra, Mr Datse said the authority had realised that unlike previous instances, where all international telephone calls were transferred and finally discharged onto a corresponding telecom operator’s service, some transfer agencies had developed the habit of randomly discharging those calls on to OTT platforms, something, he said, was beyond the control of the NCA.

“Once that happens, the government, through the authority, losses the US$0.19 per minute that is levied on every international call,” Mr Datse said this at the function organised by the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications.

The event, which was on the theme ‘The Growth of OTTs and the Role of Mobile Operators and Regulators,’ was part of activities marking the 10th anniversary celebrations of GIFEC.
It followed the public anxiety that greeted recent erroneous reports that the NCA, which regulates the communications sector, was considering banning OTT services in the country.

While discounting the reports as false, the director of Regulations at the NCA said the authority had assumed a neutral role in the matter and would rather take a decision that was in the interest of its stakeholders.
He, as a result, bemoaned the inability of all the telecom companies, except MTN, to attend a stakeholder meeting organised last year to find a common ground to the issue.

“Assuming all the companies participated and made their presentations, we could have been finding some consensus to the matter,” he said. The event was attended by consumers and other interested parties.
Mr Datse explained that banning OTT services was not possible, given the liberal nature of the country.

Just as is the case in Spain and France, he said Ghana could consider restricting the operational areas of OTT to defined services as a way of helping mitigate its impact on the telecom industry.
“Those are some of the modules we are looking at but it all depends on what the industry says,” he added.

He also admitted that a strong growth in OTTs services in the country would not only impact negatively on the finances of the mobile network operators but on the state, which grosses a sizeable amount of money from the levies imposed on international calls.

He, however, stressed that OTT services had come to stay hence the need for a broader discussion on how to deal with the issue
He stressed that whatever decision the country would take on the matter should be in the supreme interest of the state.

A Digital Marketing Strategist and Managing Director of PopOut, Mr Maximus Ametorgoh, said the country, and the network operators for that matter, had a variety of options from which to choose from when it came to dealing with OTT services.

The most common ones, he said, was whether to fight or partner with the OTT services providers.
The Manager of Products and Services at Vodafone Ghana, Mr Jojo Quansah, said mobile network operators were well aware of the implications of OTTs on their operations and had already started putting in place some measures to insulate their operations from the adverse effects.

He mentioned content creation as one area that growth of OTT services had impacted substantially on the industry but expressed the hope that the players would restrategise to ensure that the impact is minimised.
He mentioned VodafoneX, tiGo Dizzy, Airtel Free Facebook and MTN’s Free Wikipedia as some of the products mobile network operators had introduced in response to the growth of OTT services in the country.