Mobile operators will use a telecom industry review recently launched by U.K. regulator Ofcom to urge that the same rules be applied to OTT calling and messaging apps such as Skype, Viber and WhatsApp as to traditional telecom services, according to a report. The MNOs will argue that IP-based communication services are competing unfairly by avoiding costly regulatory hurdles while relying on MNOs’ network infrastructure. EE said, “We would expect Ofcom to address the changing relationship between network operators and the over-the-top players that rely on operator investment and services to grow their globally successful businesses.” Vodafone UK also said it would lobby the regulator on the issue, but neither operator provided specifics about their demands.
While we have observed that many operators in various markets have adopted a strategy of “if you can’t beat them, join them” with regard to OTTs, some industry players have advocated taking a harder and more aggressive line, especially in light of the fact that OTTs depend on operator infrastructure in order to function. The U.K. operators’ lobbying on the issue, while it may not be successful, represents a significant first step in this direction for that market.