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CTO Sec gen Houlin Zhao

New CTO’s report on OTTs highlights innovation, tailored services

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The findings of a study by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) show that majority of telecoms stakeholders recognize and appreciate the innovative nature of over-the-top services (OTTs) and do not want the services to be stifled as the segment offers numerous benefits to consumers.

There is, nonetheless, widespread support for regulatory responses although, predictably, less so from the OTT sector itself, the report says.

While larger and more advanced Commonwealth countries have the scale and market and regulatory sophistication to take advantage of the App economy, particularly by building domestic digital businesses, this is not necessarily the case with emerging and small Commonwealth countries. Given the widely acknowledged role of telecommunication services in promoting economic development, it is critical that such markets focus on attracting investment in communications infrastructure by ensuring that network operators can earn sufficient margins to sustain the rollouts and upgrades that underpin the App economy.

The report recommends further consultation to involve all stakeholders at national level in the countries surveyed, but also at regional and international level, given that the issues raised in the survey are not peculiar to any specific country. While it is understood that countries will vary in terms of existing policies and regulations, cross-border collaboration is especially also highlighted as useful in sharing experiences and learning from mistakes and best practices.

The European Union broadly regards over-the-top service providers as online services that can potentially act as substitute for traditional telecommunications and audiovisual services such as voice telephony, SMS and television. It further distinguishes between OTTs, online services and managed services noting that OTTs represent a subset of online services, which also differ from managed services.

Among the key OTT challenges identified by the study include Licensing obligations; Taxation (jurisdiction); QoS/QoE; Data protection and privacy; Net neutrality; Interconnection; and Universal service fund (USF).

However, the report made a number recommendations including Using the report to create favourable ICT environment in terms of policies, regulations and legislations; Adopting OTT services as being part of the App economy as innovation needs to be encouraged; Encouraging countries to determine suitable frameworks through regional and international considerations; and Developing a national cybersecurity strategies, to include robust legal structures/instruments and governance to address data protection and privacy.

The report, which is available for download, was well received and adopted by the Commonwealth ICT ministers during the CTO ICT Ministers Forum 2018.

Business Hilights gathered that the CTO has committed to assist the commonwealth countries to develop further internal OTT frameworks for the Commonwealth Countries.

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