Indications have emerged that telecoms companies operating in Nigeria may block access to Skype, Whatsapp and other OTT services. This step is being taken as a drastic measure to improve revenues.
PUNCH reported that telecoms companies in the country are hoping to address concerns over revenue loss from international calls and hit a revenue target of N20 trilion. It said that subscribers might also be prevented from performing certain functions like voice and video calls on WhatsApp and Facebook, among other OTT services.
“It is an aggressive approach to stop further revenue loss to OTT players on international calls, having already lost about N100tn between 2012 and 2017,” a manager at one of the major telecos in the country said.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the manager said, “If we fail to be pro-active by taking cogent steps now, then there are indications that we may lose between N20tn and N30tn, or so, by the end of 2018.”
The source added that the increasing rise of the OTT players, who provide voice and Short Message Services, or apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook, BlackBerry Messenger and Viber, was eating deep into the voice revenue of telecommunications companies in the country by more than 50 per cent.
A United Kingdom-based research and analytics company, Ovum, stated in a report recently that $386bn loss would accrue over a period of six years – between 2012 and 2018 – from Nigerian customers using the OTT voice applications.
“Generally, the main fear of the telecoms operators here will be that customers will increasingly use Skype as a substitute for conventional international calls,” the Principal Analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media, Matthew Reed, said.
But reacting to the development, Mr. Tony Ojobo, Director, Public Affairs, NCC said, “We don’t have any evidence of that. We do not regulate the Internet.”
Mr. Kenneth Omeruo, Managing Director, TechTrends Nigeria said, “I am not aware of this development but globally, operators and network equipment makers don’t really embrace Skype.
“They liken Skype to an individual who takes undue advantage of other people’s generosity without giving anything in return. Globally, there is this apprehension among telecoms operators that Skype only steals their customers, while they invest billions of dollars to build, expand and upgrade networks.”
“It (WhatsApp) has also launched a free voice service,” the Public Relations and Protocol Manager, MTN Nigeria, Mr. Funso Aina, said, adding, “The point to note in this argument is that the OTTs allow users to send unlimited texts, images, video and audio messages free of charge, using their current data plans.”
According to him, the problem is that these services are provided using network infrastructure of the operators, but without commensurate compensation to operators.
Aina added, “At the same time, they are denying operators of revenue to grow their networks, thereby impacting on service delivery and long-term sustainability.
“For instance, to date, MTN has invested over $15bn in building its network in Nigeria. You can now imagine an OTT leveraging the network to deliver its content without investing a kobo locally. The impact on revenue is huge.
“Furthermore, because these entities are not licensed, and because they have not built any infrastructure locally, they do not have the same costs as the licensed operators.
“They do not pay taxes, they do not employ any people locally, and indeed, they have no local presence whatsoever, meaning they do not make any contribution to our economy and their services are denying those who make contributions of income.”