Government dictates the rate of international calls being terminated in Bangladesh. And it is always way above the hyper-competitive international wholesale voice rate. The regulator also takes away 40 per cent of the gross international revenue. Both the elements have been strongly incentivizing illegal bypass. Moreover, the international gateway (IGW) operators have been allowed to form a cartel named International Gateway Operators Forum (IOF).
Reading a story about how profitable DTAC in Thailand found the up to 5 million Myanmarese living in Thailand to be, I was reminded of what LIRNEasia-MIDO had submitted in response to the draft International Gateway regulations in January 2016. Imposing non-cost reflective termination rates for international incoming calls is counterproductive especially in the market conditions found in Myanmar where over 50 percent of the subscribers of major mobile network operators are daily data users. Most international communication will shift to “over-the-top” (so called OTT) services, accelerating the decline of the international communication services offered by fixed and mobile network operators. Toward the end of the story they do get to our point: DTAC’s main competition is arguably not other telecom operators but rather new technologies, which are making old-fashioned IDD calls an unnecessary expense. “Nowadays Burmese people in Thailand, whether they are migrant workers, activists or academics, are using less costly methods such as Facebook Messenger, Viber or LINE to communicate with friends and relatives in Burma,” said U Soe Aung, a long time Thailand resident and spokesman for the Forum for Democracy in Burma.
India started in April 2015, when the regulator (TRAI) proposed rules for how application/content providers (Over the Top Players, or OTTs) should be regulated, taxed and treated (that debate got sidelined in the battle over Facebook and FreeBasics, but that’s a different story). Now it’s South Africa’s turn. It seems that two operators are pushing for the regulator (ICASA) for regulation of OTTs, specifically that WhatsApp should be subject to local tax. These are two of the bigger telcos that are asking for this. Supporting their point of view of course are the national security hawks, who possibly don’t care about the tax, but want access to the OTT content (in this case, the content of WhatApp messages), and see this as the opportunity for catch-all regulation.
The news reports suggest that TRAI has already received nearly 1 million submissions to its recent “Consultation Paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services” that has sparked a heated debate on net neutrality. In addition to drafting a response ourselves, we also turned our attention to the problem of analyzing such a large volume of responses. Significant amount of time and effort would be required to read and interpret, as well to even formulate a basic general outline of what the public and other stakeholders are trying to say. To put it mildly, TRAI is going to have its work cut out if they are to give each response due justice. Current and former researchers from our big data team, Kaushalya Madhawa, Danaja Maldeniya, and Nisansa de Silva brainstormed a technology augmented approach to the problem of analyzing the responses.
Over-the-top players like WhatsApp, Facebook and Skype will cost mobile operators an estimated $14 billion in lost revenues this year. And it will be 26% more from 2013, according to a study of Juniper Research. It has detected that in a number of markets the mobile voice revenues had fallen bellow 60% of their value five years’ ago. The combination of IM, VoIP and social media are blamed for not only in lost revenues but adding costs due to the scale of signaling traffic. It suggests the operators to optimize their networks.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has decided not to regulate over-the-top (OTT) providers, such as Skype, Viber and WhatsApp. The mobile operators claim that such apps will annually cost them over US$822 million in lost revenues, as subscribers prefer to use free voice and messaging apps. Therefore, they demanded to regulate the OTT providers either for a revenue sharing scheme or a fee system. The TRAI, however, believes that mobile operators recover their losses through growth in data revenues. As a result, the regulator has decided not to take any action against the OTT providers.
Among the comments to an informative article on Zuckerberg’s interactions with telecom CEOs at GSM Mobile World tamasha in Barcelona was this: The carriers are making tons of money supplying pipes. The expensive pipes are in demand because of the low cost apps people can run over them. It would be like power companies complaining they don’t make money off of selling electrical appliances, when people pay power companies every month for power.
Skype’s acquisition by Microsoft was a big story. This should be, too. Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten acquired Viber for $900 million, just days after the CEO of the mobile messaging player denied it was in acquisition talks. Rakuten said the deal is aimed at strengthening its global platform by bringing Viber’s user base to its e-commerce and digital content services. Viber has 280 million global registered users in nearly 200 countries and more than 100 million monthly active users.
This is stuck at the end of a New York Times article on how the new FCC Chair has been doing in his first months. Worth pondering over. But he has yet to speak plainly about his plans to overcome the net neutrality decision. Critics say that in doing so he has hidden just how much power the F.C.
Apps have attacked the lucrative harvest of voice with the tenacity of hungry locusts. Now they have targeted the farmhouse of messaging. And the device makers have joined the feast with independent messaging outfits. The revenue from messaging services fell by almost 4% in 2013 to just below US$104 billion. It predicts that the decline in messaging revenue will be more pronounced in North America and Western Europe where the greatest penetration of smartphones and data users has been prevalent.
Can the telcos work out deals with OTTs about the traffic they carry? Or do they have to be absolutely neutral? These are the questions. The outcome will reverberate across the world. The case, which is expected to be decided late this year or early next year, has attracted enormous interest.
Just before WCIT, Hosuk Lee and I did a rush job that looked at the possibility that the ETNO-inspired efforts to extract rents from OTT players such as Facebook may violate GATS commitments. Now the issue has bubbled up on another front: When China and other nations block the websites of U.S. companies but the United States doesn’t respond in kind there’s a strong argument that creates an unfair trade barrier, said Andrew McLaughlin, former White House deputy chief technology officer. He cited the example of Facebook, which is blocked in China, and Renren, a Chinese social networking service colloquially known as the “Facebook of China.