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OTT services stir up mixed feelings in Kenya

OTT services stir up mixed feelings in Kenya

There is mixed feeling in the Kenyan market regarding the role of Over-the-Top services (OTTs), according to the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO).

The organisation has engaged the market ahead of the release of an OTT-focused report, scheduled for mid-June, and while some respondents have emphasised broadband connectivity and enabling digital marketplaces (especially for SMEs), others have raised concerns including reliance on existing third-party infrastructure, end-to-end quality control and overall regulation.

Through its consultation which ran until the end of May, the CTO found that OTTs offer advantages that include helping to achieve high economies of scale and enabling local and long-haul voice communications at no direct cost to end users.

At the same time, challenges noted were OTTs' ability to bypass local jurisdictions tax regimes and the reduction of network operators' revenue from voice.

Francis Wangusi, Director General, Communications Authority of Kenya acknowledges the challenge that OTTs have brought to the local market.

"The deployment and use of OTT services in various jurisdictions have undoubtedly led to an increase in consumer demand for data services/bundles provided by mobile network operators. This has in turn resulted in revenue opportunities for telecom operators. However, there is also a lack of clear OTT policies and regulatory frameworks, which has led OTTs and other online competing services to have adverse impact on the business modes of traditional telecommunications operators."

Shola Taylor, CTO Secretary-General said, "In many respects, Kenya's ICT sector is a trendsetter when it comes to ICT adoption, hence our decision to engage stakeholders here."

Africa has a total of 18 countries that are full CTO member states, including: Kenya, Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia.

Other members from the ICT sector include Zimbabwe's regulator Portraz, the GSMA, Facebook, Huawei, Safaricom, Sentech, satellite companies Intelsat and Eutelsat, as well as Botswana's BoFiNeT.

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