In recent years, over-the-top (OTT) providers such as Viber, WhatsApp and Skype have steadily increased their presence in the market and their popularity with consumers. Until now, OTT applications have been able to offer users free calling and messaging services via the internet with very little restriction and regulation compared to traditional telecoms companies.
Having conducted a review of the current ePrivacy Directive, the European Commission found that, although its objectives and principles remain sound, there have been important technological and economic developments in the market which the legislation needs to keep pace with. The Commission found that these new OTT services are not adequately covered by European law.
For traditional telecoms providers, news that the legislation surrounding OTT services is to be tightened will come as positive news. Last year, several high profile operators — that included Orange, Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom — wrote to the EU Commission complaining that OTT providers had an unfair advantage.
This alleged advantage has had a seriously damaging effect on the revenues of telecoms providers. The latest research estimates that the telecommunications industry will lose $386 billion in revenue by the end of 2018, solely as a result of customers using OTT applications. The recent decline in revenues year-on-year has meant that there is less urgency for operators to invest in improving their network infrastructure, which has a negative impact on the end-user experience for customers all over Europe.
With the draft legislation now completed, it appears change is in the pipeline. However, as with all legal processes there is a still a long way to go before the playing field is levelled. Aside from the competition that OTT applications fuel, OTT apps such as Viber have been proactively touting the capability to terminate calls, selling this service on the open market and directly to some operators in different countries.
A recent survey carried out by Revector, the telecommunications anti-fraud specialist, some operators have lost more than 70% of revenues to OTT hijack in the last 12 months. Revector offers an OTT detection and elimination service which is the only fully tested and proven OTT service on the market. It is able to identify and stop OTT hijacking and monitor OTT threats in real-time, ensuring network operators receive the revenues they are due.
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