Economy Public Policy

South Asian regulators open to supporting OTT market

The South Asian Telecommunication Regulators’ Council (SATRC) workshop on policy, regulation and services held three days of deliberations on various aspects of OTT services; measures to protect consumers’` interests; emerging licensing frameworks; and international connectivity for the provision of broadband services in Nepal late December. The workshop was organized by the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT), and jointly hosted by the Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC) and Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA). This workshop was part of the implementation of the SATRC Action Plan Phase V which was adopted at the 15th SATRC meeting held in 2014 in Paro, Bhutan.

With the convergence of technologies and services, data consumption is exploding. The global over-the-top (OTT) service delivery market has changed the way people communicate and consume media. These services create more demand for high speed Internet access but are also pushing network operators to work on new business models and arrangements, particularly in developing countries.

In recent times, OTT has been a hot issue in South Asian markets, with high consumer demand as well as challenges faced by telecommunication service providers. Some regulators in the region have considered or proposed to establish regulatory frameworks for Internet-based messaging and calling applications like Skype, Whatsapp, and Viber. This has generated a bit of uncertainty in the minds of consumers, with questions being asked on the nature of the regulatory measures and the level of control these would place over OTT services.

Deliberations on OTT at the SATRC workshop indicate that regulators are looking forward to facilitating the delivery of OTT services. They are working on establishing partnerships between local network service providers and global OTT giants, and appear keen to facilitate local players and to introduce innovative business models. There were also discussions indicating that regulators were not in favour of blocking or killing available OTT services. However, they were also looking to introduce regulatory frameworks that will invite OTT players for service authorisation, and also want to look at addressing risks related to data privacy and consumer protection.

Regulators at the workshop provided updates on their telecommunication licensing frameworks, implementing measures to protect consumer’s interest and, efforts towards improving International connectivity. There was also emphasis on enhancing cross-regional bandwidth connectivity, and on establishing a regional Internet exchange point (IXP) to improve the efficiency of regional Internet traffic.