Wi-Fi Forum SA says market disruption is an opportunity

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The Wi-Fi Forum of SA (WFFSA) has urged the country's mobile networks to develop innovative ways to benefit from OTT (over-the-top) technologies or risk redundancy.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, WFFSA chair Andile Ngcaba said: "Telegraph equipment can now be found in museums because those firms didn't innovate. Nobody wants our mobile networks to end up in museums because they didn't recognise a market-disrupting technology as an opportunity."

"The Internet cannot be governed and must be embraced," he said, referring to misguided moves to regulate OTT services. Far from being a threat, "OTT applications such as WhatsApp are motivating to Africa's youth," said Ngcaba. "Every young person wants to develop the next WhatsApp and we should be encouraging the building and exporting of apps, not trying to wish them away in a spirit of complacency," he added.

OTT has no clear or unambiguous definition, and this presents some difficulty for regulators. OTT is generally used to refer to the delivery of content via the Internet, which doesn't require users to subscribe to a traditional network service.

Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services had scheduled hearings for 26 January based on the committee's intention to better understand the possible regulation of OTT services.

Calling for SMS text messages to be free, Ngcaba said there is no evidence that OTT services are harming telco revenues. "Moves to regulate budget-friendly communication services like WhatsApp and Skype come at a time when consumers are set to be hit by further interest rate and cost of living increases," said Ngcaba.

Speaking following his allocated slot, Ngcaba explained the WFFSA has a history of positive engagement with the country's cellular networks since the voluntary forum of operators, service providers, technology providers and associated parties was founded in 2013. For example, WFFSA has been introducing the concept of a nationwide heterogeneous voice and data network that will consist of 3G and 4G mobile, small cell and WiFi networks, all interlaced to deliver a seamless experience to the South African mobile consumer.

"Relationships between ICT industry players in South Africa are good and we'll continue to find common ground on issues that at first seemed insurmountable," concluded Ngcaba.

Wi-Fi Forum of SA

The Wi-Fi Forum of SA (WFFSA) regularly engages leading industry associations and other stakeholders on areas of common interest when it comes to promoting WiFi as a viable and affordable open access communications technology that can contribute significantly to the achievement of government and society's goals in the spheres of health, education, entrepreneurship, job creation and crime prevention.

Wi-Fi Forum SA Secretariat (Ellipsis Management Solutions)

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