We did not call 10 years ago today. Technology has evolved and allows the use of multiple media (smartphone, tablet, computer) to communicate with your contacts, including voice. This new situation has brought telephony operators to a new reality: OTT "Over the Top" or "bypass service" in French. The best known are WhatsApp, Skype, Viber and Facebook Messenger, YouTube or Netflix.
Also read: Mobile Internet Senegal: Boycott and Competition Double Orange
With these Web tools, your smartphone can ensure the transport of video, audio or data over the Internet without the direct intervention of the operator to which the user is subscribed. It is clear that players, more specifically the operators, see these actors as disruptive factors that make them lose money. The CEO of Sonatel / Orange Senegal recently published and reports a loss of 20 billion FCFA due to OTT.
Faced with the exponential increase in OTT, operators are firing the alarm.
The cell phone supplanted the landline, just as the e-mail weakened the mail. However, both fixed and good mail continue to exist, with less global and more specific functions in the office and at home.
But beyond the operators' alert / complaint, it is essential to ask a number of questions.
Are we questioning the effects of the Internet? Forget the very nature of this formidable tool that eliminates barriers and hunts. Yes, the internet is disruptive in essence. This changes our way of life and all new technologies integrate it into your R & D process. It has become inevitable for both business and the end user. Even operators are taking advantage of the magic of the Web with many and varied offers such as VOD or Mobile Banking.
Are we questioning OTTs and their impact on the mode of operation and operator economics?
They have an undeniable effect on the ecosystem. All the more so since they are now an integral part of it. Like Orange or Tigo, Apple or Samsung, or content providers. Operators' fear is expressed in terms of profit and loss, in the sense that their core business is now shaken. Their concern is, inter alia, that in the long term, OTTs will supplant SMS and traditional calls on the RTC network (that of operators).
In the end, it's all about income. OTTs always offer more possibilities and their inventiveness seems unlimited, remaining very accessible. According to a study by Juniper Research, the OTT market, which generated 8 billion euros of revenue worldwide in 2018, will exceed 30 billion in 2019. Operators denounce the creation of an "Over" value of their networks, without financial compensation .
However, they make ever greater profits. The Senegalese receive every year impressive numbers published by the number one operator in the country. So, a priori, everyone is surfing on the "inevitability" of new technologies. Better, operators and OTTs seem complementary. A basic example: To access OTTs, you need an Internet connection, sold by operators. The growing demand for data necessarily leads to an increase in data revenues for operators, even evoking a vicious circle. OTTs optimize data consumption, resulting in less internet for the operator.
Finally, it is important to remember the principle of "Net Neutrality". The principle of Internet governance is that of an open network. This means that Internet service providers (ISPs), and therefore operators, should treat all Internet traffic fairly. It does not matter which sender and sender, content or media used. While staying legal, the provider has the obligation to route traffic without affecting speed or price.
With OTTs and the growing appetite of new generations of users, operators need to review their strategies and reinvent themselves. They are already investing heavily in infrastructure and the network to meet this demand for capacity. Moreover, as noted above, more and more operators are opening up to alliances / partnerships with other participants to diversify and densify their offerings. In addition to the classic packages, almost all operators offer, through strategic partnerships, VOD, songs, online games, etc. In France, Orange launched Libon. An open chat service to deal with OTT. Libon allows voice over IP (VoIP) and communicates with the user's directory. It does not matter what OTT the "Libon user" contacts use.
These technological innovations should be welcomed. But there are other issues mentioned here and there and we can not objectively make the economy.
Tax evasion in non-domiciled countries, as well as the difficulty for regulators to deal with the protection of personal data, are likely to prevail today. Not to mention the lack of contribution to the Universal Telecommunication Service Development Fund (FDSUT), quality control, etc. Some countries propose that OTTs acquire a special license.
The regulating / regulating lightning rod is agitated. In the more regulated market, Europe, we talk about "the telecommunications package" in the application of EU directives. There are different obligations depending on the country, but also a common basis of obligations for all. In particular, be able to:
– Draw up a communication and preserve all the characteristics (to be able to collaborate with the justice in case of request).
– Call emergency services at any time. As is the case with operators.
Ultimately, the advance of OTT is not without reformulation and questions for which it will be necessary to bring answers. But throwing the baby out with the bath water is certainly not a panacea. Linking or blocking OTTs, as some countries or operators tried to do, would also not benefit the digital economy or entrepreneurial creativity of youth. These are complementary technologies whose articulation remains a vast debate that can not be exclusive. All the actors in the ecosystem have the obligation to deepen the discussion, without passion, in the moment of an increasingly digitized economy.
Abdou Khadre L
Director of Africa at the Access Partnership
Associate Member of the African Telecommunications Union (UAT) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)