Nigerian Communications Commission likely to introduce regulatory framework for OTT

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator, may set up a regulatory framework for the control of over-the-top (OTT) technology services.

This may be possible if the NCC eventually validates the findings of a study carried out by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO) on the benefits and challenges of OTT services in Nigeria.

The Secretary-General of CTO, Mr. Shola Taylor, underlined the need for regulatory responses to OTT services that are tailored to the context of each Commonwealth country.

“Following the widespread use of OTTs and ICTs, and the emergence of data security issues, some of which are not limited by physical jurisdictions and cross-national borders, it is vital that Nigeria establishes legislation on data protection and privacy which ensures the protection of personal data in Nigeria,” Taylor declared.

The Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management at NCC, Mr. Sunday Dare expressed, “It has now become vital for Nigeria to come up with regulatory approaches that not only address the peculiarities of the Nigerian ‘OTT’ context but also ensure positive outcomes for consumers, traditional service providers, OTTs, and the federal government. The CTO’s OTT report is an excellent start to doing just that.”

The OTT services are rendered by social network providers who ride on the infrastructure of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) like MTN, Globacom, Airtel, among other GSM operators, to offer free voice and instant messaging services such as: WhatsApp, WeChat, Skype, Facebook, Viber, Imo, at no cost to the subscribers.

The Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, had raised concern that social network operators do not invest in infrastructure, but ride on the infrastructure of MNOs to provide free services to customers at the detriment of MNOs who have invested so much to build their infrastructure and are still investing in the maintenance of such telecoms infrastructure.

On the other hand, he said the new development was causing MNOs to lose revenue strings hitherto coming from their voice and data services, because subscribers now prefer to patronize the social network operators who provide the services at no cost to the subscriber.

Adebayo had last year, called on NCC to consider the regulation of OTT services but NCC made it clear at that time that it was not ready to regulate the OTT technology in order to avoid a process that would lead to the stifling of technology advancement in Nigeria.

CTO is the oldest and largest Commonwealth intergovernmental organization in the field of information and communication technologies. With a diverse membership spanning developed and least developed countries, the CTO aims to become a trusted partner for sustainable development for all through ICTs.