Even though it has been reported that Vodacom South Africa, one of the biggest mobile networks, want WhatsApp to be regulated as these OTT (over the top) services are cutting into Vodacom’s profits, the CEO has assured users that there are no plans to block the service.
WhatsApp Messenger has become increasingly popular all over the world, due to the fact that it uses the Internet to send text messages, images, video, user location and audio media messages to other users using standard cellular mobile numbers.
WhatsApp is considered to be an ‘OTT provider’ and according to Vodacom’s group CEO, Shameel Joosub, OTT providers present a “double-edged sword” in that they are a big driver of data growth but don’t invest in mobile networks.
Vodacom recently announced its interim results, and said that it has experienced a 33,5% data growth rate but that the company had invested R6,2bn in South Africa to cater for greater Internet usage. This follows a R5,8bn investment in 2014.
While Joosub isn’t against these OTT services, he has said that he thinks that the regulator Icasa (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) should have certain rules around them regarding licensing them properly. Although he doesn’t think these services should be blocked, he thinks that there is an ‘ecosystem’ that needs to exist, where the different deliberations should be heard. This includes the likes of WhatsApp voice calling which is of particular concern, and he also questioned where OTT providers’ revenues end up.
WhatsApp currently doesn’t have advertising, but other internet services such as Facebook do tap this kind of revenue. In an interview, he said that “The model that these guys use is advertising revenue. “Where’s the advertising revenue being paid? In South Africa or in Europe or the US?”
This is not the first time that a mobile network has spoken out about the use of OTT services like WhatsApp, as MTN South Africa CEO, Mteto Nyati has also been known to question OTT providers and has called for greater regulation.
We can only hope that this matter doesn’t become more of a problem, and that the use of WhatsApp Messenger continues to flourish for South Africans.