Following press reports that OTT VoIP apps were being blocked by operators in Senegal, regulator ARPT said the country has passed legislation setting rules for VoIP. It confirmed that the move resulted from an investigation begun in December 2015. The authority stresses that all telecom service providers must be licensed and that only licensed providers can carry traffic to end users within the terms set by their license agreements. The rules state that only network operators can provide VoIP services. The regulator added that international VoIP operators do not fulfill Senegalese licensing conditions and that they cost the national telecom market revenues.
OTT apps such as Skype and WhatsApp that have expanded beyond text messaging into voice services pose a challenge to MNOs all over the world, but perhaps most particularly so in developing economies where consumers’ budget concerns are strongest. Operators generally resent them not only for taking away revenues but also because they piggyback on MNOs’ networks without contributing any financing to their building or maintenance. Nonetheless, for the most part operators in the developed markets have opted for a “join them” rather than a “beat them” strategy, accepting that the VoIP apps are here to stay. Senegal, on the other hand, is taking an aggressive stance against them. Failure to meet licensing conditions is the stated reason for the ban, but protecting operator revenues is likely the most important motivation.