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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said it cannot unilaterally regulate the activities of Over-The-Top (OTT) technology service providers deployed by fintech operators in the country.

The executive vice chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, made this known during a recent media interaction with journalists in Abuja.

This was sequel to calls by traditional telecoms operators to the regulator to take a second look at the activities of OTT players in the country, saying it is negatively affecting operators’ revenue base.

Danbatta said, however, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) was still looking at the implications of OTT services to consumers and the operators.

He said: “I read and hear arguments about OTT services such as WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook, Instagram, among others, where the providers of such services ride on the network of traditional telecoms operators to deliver voice and data services to the people at no cost. Traditional telecoms operators who have invested heavily in their network, which the OTT service providers are utilising, have called for the regulation of OTT services, complaining that the service is eating deep into their revenue generation.

“The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is still looking at the implications and the gains of OTT services to consumers and the operators and the NCC cannot act in isolation over the OTT service delivery, which I think the consumers are enjoying because it is completely free of charge.”

The NCC boss, however, pointed out that OTT services also stimulate increased data demand and network expansion.

According to him, “What the operators will not say is the manner and way that OTT services stimulate demand for data. We have noticed tremendous increase in data usage for the past 12 months because people must buy data to access the free OTT service. Again, the operators will not say how the OTT services stimulate demand for network expansion, and this means making more money.

“Again, Nigeria is on the global LTE map because of the huge use of data. LTE is a network of data associated with high speed use of data. So, data usage has doubled in the country and operators are making money from the increased data usage. We know the challenge of the other side of the coin, where OTT service providers are riding on telecoms infrastructure that they did not invest in to provide free data and voice services.”

Danbatta harped on the need to strike a balance, saying the ITU and the Commonwealth Telecommunication Organisation (CTO) are currently looking at it because it is a global issue, and developed countries like the US have not come up with any regulatory framework on OTT.

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