Zimbabwe government rejects Telco requests to regulate Over-the-top Services like WhatsApp

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In January, the the biggest telcos in South Africa MTN and Vodacom fronted an arguement to the government that over the top services such as WhatsApp. Telegram, Skype and Viber should be regulated as they were eating into the revenue streams of the telcos. The proposal came from the realization that these services utilized infrastructure put in place by mobile companies but failed to pay for the use of the infrastructure. The proposal led to parliamentary hearings to determine the licensing and regulatory obligations of OTT with  South Africans leading a spirited online campaign under #SaveWhatsApp.

In Nigeria, the regulator has been keen on spurring the debate. The Nigeria Communications Commission published a report titled An overview of provision of over-the-top services, that analyzed the current state as well as implications of these services in Nigeria.  In the report, the NCC states that  telcos cannot earn revenue directly from these services as they are not involved in planning, selling, provisioning.

The same argument was fronted in Zimbabwe late last year but the Zimbabwe government has since rejected it. According to Zimbabwean Newspaper the Herald, the Zimbabwe government is averse to regulating these services as it looks to promote technology and regulating these services would hamper efforts in that direction.  The Zim government further believes these services promote innovation and plans to allocate 1% of the total revenues from telecommunication services towards an innovation fund.  We hope the other countries with such plans follow suit.