Co-operation between Over-the-Top (OTT) players, including Skype and WhatsApp, dominated discussion at the first ITU (International Telecommunications Union) meeting held in Hammamet, Tunisia this week.
Executives from Expresso Telecom Group; CSU (Hayo), Senegal; Mobilis, Algeria; Telkom Group, South Africa; Huawei Technologies, China; and Nokia Corporation, Finland; and Deutsche Telekom, Germany, noted that despite frequent discussions about the proliferation of OTT services as delivered by third party providers, no adequate, sustainable approach has been found to address the interplay of OTT service providers and operators.
They requested a fair level playing field in a way that makes OTT players be subject to the same regulations as those in the telecoms sector when providing an equivalent service.
They also called on the ITU to study the economic impact of OTT services on operators, develop international standards and a holistic approach to address the telecom market environment – particularly in developing countries.
This will include studying viable business models, developing best practices, and build partnerships between operators and OTT service providers and collaborating with other standards bodies and industry organisations.
The resulting guidance is expected to help place industry players in developing countries in a stronger position to compete internationally, as well as provide a wider choice of ICT products and services at a lower cost, with greater quality and ease of access.
"What is important to me is that our customers like OTT," says Deutsche Telekom's Thomas Kremer in a video interview. "That's why telecom companies should partner with OTTs but they should do it on a level-playing field. This is why we need some regulatory approaches to this issue."
Tunisie Telecom's Rim Belhassine-Cherif, while urging telcos from developing countries to participate in the ITU study on economic impacts of OTT, and to develop guidelines and best practices for OTT-Telco cooperation, talked about how her company partnered with OTT video-on-demand provider "icflix", and with Universal Music to provide "Digster by TT."