CCS
CCS Events
CCS Libraries
About CCS
CCS Projects
BRICS
CCS Highlights


OTT regulation will protect profits, not customers



Jose Dos Santos 19 January 2016

Johannesburg - MTN and Vodacom have declared war on consumer interests. The duopoly wants to limit how we use Internet services like WhatsApp - and it has nothing to do with fairness, competition or the future of South Africa. To the contrary, it is all about maintaining their stranglehold on a vital artery feeding our country’s economic and social future.

The two mobile networks have now successfully lobbied government to investigate potentially regulating over-the-top (OTT) services, like WhatsApp. I suppose it was inevitable, given their views of OTT applications, Vodacom, for example, believes: “You have these [OTT] players which are getting huge benefit out of an industry without making any investment” and operators need to continue making a return”.

MTN has been less diplomatic. Former MTN South Africa CEO Ahmad Farroukh was quoted as saying that MTN was not prepared to spend billions of dollars building networks just so that OTT players can get a “free ride”. His successor, Mteto Nyati agrees. “You have to regulate them because clearly they’re making a huge amount of revenue on top of the infrastructure that the operators have paid for. Somehow they have to contribute towards the building of this infrastructure”.

Suddenly they are concerned with “levelling the playing fields” – only now when they face competition.

Regulation itself is not necessarily a bad thing and South African telecoms regulation could definitely use a little modernisation. We need to ask serious questions about privacy, consumer rights and infrastructure sharing to reduce costs. But in this case, that is not Vodacom or MTN’s aim. Instead they are hoping to confuse the issue, rather than sticking to clear, reasonable arguments.

More costs

Regulation would impose new costs. Costs that will either prompt OTT players to withdraw their services from South Africa or push up prices for the consumer, the very consumer that already pays for the data to use those services.

It is not hard to imagine the motivation of MTN and Vodacom, as both have historically resisted any attempt to “level the playing field” in the mobile industry. They have fought number porting and the elimination of interconnect fees. These are companies that have shown no interest in the welfare of the customers who keep them in business.

We believe that OTT services encourage consumers to participate more. The more they participate, the more they spend. Cell C is still a business and must make money. But good companies adapt and change to create new opportunities for themselves and their customers. Bad companies manipulate the system to only get what they want - the customer doesn’t matter.

I invite South Africans to interrogate the motivations of companies that would support this kind of regulation.

Connectivity is key to the welfare of a 21st century nation. These platforms empower individuals and communities. They allow people to connect and be part of a global community. Now think of all the conversations we have every day on Facebook, WhatsApp, Google Talk, Skype, WeChat and more. Consider the many services such as Gmail, Office 365, Sage Accounting and so on that allow small business to start and flourish.

Hurting consumers

OTT regulation will force extra costs on those services or force their withdrawal. It will hurt consumers and small companies. It will disadvantage everyone - everyone except the networks whose only interest resides in protecting their revenues.

Cell C has proven that, by opting for partnerships instead of bullying, you can work alongside OTT services to the benefit of everyone. We offered free WhatsApp services for a year, during which Cell C customers did not spend any data to send messages. Since we have transformed this into a low R5-per-month offer and opened our free services to include Facebook.

As a consequence we have not lost customers. We have grown and those customers have grown as well. They are more connected and informed, but without needing to pay more for the privilege. No, not privilege. It’s a right. It is not fair that those with a voice are only those who can afford to have one.

As I said in the beginning, regulation of the telecommunication space is a conversation that should happen. But what MTN, Vodacom and their collaborators are trying to do is not address the big issue. They simply want to protect what they have and they are happy to sell the consumer out in order to get that.

As it stands, Cell C does not support OTT regulation in South Africa, because the only losers will be the people whose money make us all successful businesses in the first place.
http://www.iol.co.za/business/opinion/ott-regulation-will-protect-profits-not-customers-1972973

Dos Santos is Cell C’s CEO. His opinions are not necessarily those of IOL.

 Other Alternative Media Websites
 World Socialist Website 
 www.uruknet.info 
 Pambazuka News 
 Abahlali baseMjondolo 
 Indymedia 
 The South African Civil Society Information Service  
 The Real News 
 Municipal Hotspots Monitor 
 Media for Justice 
 RTCC News 
 Workers' Fightback 
 The Vast Minority  
 Indymedia Africa 
 R2K 
 Protest News from Greece 
 Amandla Alternative Media 
 www.todaysalternativenews.com/ 
 Prensa Latina 
 Dissident Voice 
 Buzzflash  
 Information Clearing House 
 Haiti News 
 Media Channel 
 Prisonplanet.Com 
 Telesur TV 
 Western Cape Anti-eviction Campaign 
 Treatment Action Campaign 
 COSATU news 
 Newsclip Autopsy 
 Green Left Weekly 
 The Mail & Guardian 
 Isyandan 
 Think Progress 
 Cape Town TV 
 Pravda 
 Shadow Government Statistics US 
 Uganda Anarchism 
 Whatreallyhappened 
 www.libcom.org/blog/ 
 Upside Down World 
 Hands Off Venezuela  
 Afrol.com 
 Agencia Informação Moçambique 
 This Day (Nigeria) 
 Addis Tribune (Ethiopia) 
 The Namibian 
 The Monitor (Uganda) 
 The Daily Monitor 
 Socialist Worker (UK) 
 The Center for Public Integrity  
 Outlook India  
 The Washington Post  
 The Nation (U.S.A.) 
 AL-AHRAM (Egypt)  
 The Guardian (UK) 
 Mail and Guardian (South Africa) 
 The New York Times 
 Courrier International (le monde)* 
 Narco-news 
 Autonomedia 
 Green Net 
 Alternet 
 Journal of Higher Education in Africa 
 Socialist Appeal  
 Xinhuanet  
 Media Watch 
 Media Alliance 
 Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting 
 Media Review Network  
 Z Mag 
 Indymedia India 
 Indymedia Argentina 
 Indymedia Brazil 
 Indymedia Chiapas 
 Indymedia Israel 
 The Electronic Intifada  
 Venezuela News Website 
 Electronic Iraq  
 Freedom of Expression Institute 
 Media Matters 
 Wiki News 
 We Are Everywhere 



|  Contact Information  |  Terms of Use  |  Privacy