The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, has given an insight into its regulation of OTT (over-the-top) services in the country. This was contained in a report by the Policy, Competition and Economic Analysis Department of the commission titled: An Overview of Provision Of Over-The-Top [OTT] Services.
According to the report, the issuance of guidelines on International Gateway Access and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) for the Nigerian Telecommunications Industry by the Nigerian Communications Commission is in line with one of its mandate of issuing communications licenses for the operation and provision of communication services, and to determine the eligibility criteria and other general terms and conditions of licenses.
“It is the expectation of the Commission that the networks of licensees operating under Full Gateway and International Data Access Licenses may convey data, voice and video signals either in their natural forms or in digitized formats. Operators of these gateways may also inter-work and exchange information by using appropriate protocol and signalling conversion devices. The IDA License is issued as a standalone license and is not be tied to any specific transmission medium for the purpose of conveying out-bound or in- bound traffic hence grants automatic authorization”.
The report further states, while this license is meant to cover provision of VoIP services, it does explicitly address the current challenges and threats pose by the growth and uptake of these services over the traditional telephone networks.
The commission in providing recommendations on the provision of OTT services across the country stated that:
- The Commission should conduct a stakeholder’s consultative forum on the provision of over-the-top services in Nigeria to determine if regulation is required for such services and its impact on the growth of the Nigerian Telecoms industry.
- Following the consultations, the Commission should review its Guidelines on the provision of International Gateway and Voice over Internet Service and also consider an appropriate Framework for Provision and Regulation of over-the-top services in the Nigerian Telecoms market.
- The Commission must ensure that it does not stifle innovation since internet penetration is still evolving, access speeds are still low and there is limited coverage of high speed broadband in Nigeria.
- The Commission should encourage network providers in Nigeria to innovate and explore more efficient business models that would enable them compete favorably with OTT service providers. Network providers can also take advantage of the internet protocol technology in the design for their network upgrades.