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Ghana initiates review of OTT services

By , ITWeb
Ghana , 16 May 2016

Ghana initiates review of OTT services

Ghana's NCA says it is reviewing the country's OTT market with a plan to make decisions for an enabling regulatory environment - not only because of the impact on the revenue streams of telecom operators that fulfill their tax obligations, but for national security concerns.

"The Authority is concerned with the fact that most of these OTT players are generally not bound by regulations in many countries which orients market dynamics in their favour," NCA says in a news release, adding that OTT is among alternative calling procedure for which Ghana has not adopted as part of its licensed services.

"OTT players are currently not under the purview of the telecom regulations in the country as they are not registered or recognised operating agencies under International Telecommunications Regulations," the statement continues. "The lack of national regulations also poses a threat to security and safety because of the very nature of the communications sector.

It says the challenges posed by OTT services from a national perspective, coupled with how their offer, based on current business models, will impact revenues of network operators in the future - despite using operators' infrastructure to reach their customers and the consumers' need to benefit directly by accessing these applications online without any restriction - make the situation an emerging trend that needs to be considered carefully by all stakeholders.

The NCA wrote that the stakeholders have specific concerns on the issue and as such is benchmarking with other countries where some have in a way regulated OTT services in extreme cases and others have allowed its use hence "the Authority is keen to find out the benefits and disadvantages of this situation."

It however denied claims by some publications that it is considering proposals to ban OTT services such as calls on Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp.

Rather, it says it is organising a Digital Family Forum on Tuesday 17 May as part of this year's World Telecom and Information Society Day to seek the views and perspectives of stakeholders on two key issues: National Roaming and the OTT Services.

Meanwhile, after his initial call for the review of OTT services, the CEO of MTN Ghana, Ebenezer Asante has since added that though OTT calls – which he says have grown to over 10% in the country - cannot be banned as they are patched through the internet, there is a need to streamline them to keep telecom operators in business.

While Asante stressed that regulation should not be likened to a ban as NCA has maintained, one of the pioneers of internet development in Africa, Narku Quaynor has warned that any proposed ban of OTT calls will affect the growth of the internet in Ghana as "trying to control what people can think about" because of revenue may be counter-productive to the actors themselves.

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