The present administration in Nigeria is showing a positive dispostion towards technological advancement and general innovations with its policies and moves. But every once in a while, they send this funny backward ripples that completely negate their message.
In a self-contradictory style, The Nigerian Communications Commision (NCC) has made a move to check Over-the-top(OTT) messaging applications- WhatsApp, Viber, BBM, Facebook, WeChat, etc
Over-the-top (OTT) messaging applications are third party servers that provide services like instant messaging, and most recently video, audio and even calls over the internet. And most times, they replace those services as traditionally offered by a mobile network operator.
According to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), a licensing regime ‘might’ soon be put in place through a regulatory framework for the operations of these OTT players in Nigeria.
The Commission apparently put out a very lengthy document titled ‘An Overview of Provision of Over-The-Top (OTT) Services’ and in it, they expressed fear that OTT being a service based on the Voice Over Internet Protocol(VoIP) is a threat to traditional telephony as we know it.
I cannot stand to imagine the level of backwardness we are being subjected to. So in a bid to protect the telco operators in Nigeria, you and I would be stymied from enjoying innovation, right?
Now, let us backtrack a little bit, I completely understand the need to protect our home grown companies over ‘these foreign imports’. But putting these policies ahead of our best interest is mind boggling. We all know the recent hassles we go through everyday trying to pretend telephone services in Nigeria are normal.
Ask anybody that has been outside the lines bordering Nigeria, our telephone(voice,internet,SMS) charges rank among the most expensive in the world. And the cost is coming with some of the crappiest services ever known to man since the invention of the calling machine.
The NCC is worried that as a result of the influx of these ‘new guys’ into the market or their unchecked freedom, Nigerian telecoms operators “face the risk of eroding revenues and profitability.” Revenue and profit over the customer, isn’t that beautiful?
No name calling, but I predicted some years back when there were just a few active telecommunication providers in Nigeria that the emergence of more competition will improve the quality of services rendered. And it is happening at an alarming rate. My mother bought her first MTN sim card for around ₦38,500 or something in that region, I cannot be sure. But today, at ₦100, you can get these same sim card for a whole community at the price it was sold back then.
This fear of innovation in the telephony sector is not peculiar to my beloved Nigeria alone. Last year, a Brazilian court banned WhatsApp for a few days after an imbroglio that was apparently brought about by telecommunication operators in the country who were afraid of the same thing that our people are fearing now.
Then sometime in February this year, a popular telco in Senegal blocked WhatsApp and Viber on their network for nearly ten days. It was attributed to a technical difficulties, but industry analysts said it was more of an economic decision to boost ‘traditional telephone services’.
Apparently the only people afraid of disruption and innovation to traditional telephony services are those not doing it right.