Regulator meeting ends with OTT accord

Regulator meeting ends with OTT accord

Facebook is one of the most popular OTT platforms in Thailand. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)
Facebook is one of the most popular OTT platforms in Thailand. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)

Telecom regulators in Asean have agreed in principle on revenue collection from over-the-top (OTT) service providers operating in the region, though the approaches will have to be figured out by the countries themselves.

The regulators met this week in Bangkok at the 25th Asean Telecommunication Regulators’ Council meeting, which ended on Thursday. OTT was one of the key topics of discussion as the regulators sought ways to properly regulate operators, including taxation.

OTT refers to digital applications or services that operate on internet networks. These players include Facebook, YouTube, Line and Netflix.

Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), said regulators from the 10 Asean countries agreed on revenue collection from the OTT operators, based on three principles raised earlier at the meeting.

First, the measures must not negatively affect consumers of OTT services. Second, OTT revenue must be given to the state. Third, OTT businesses should give their consent to the measures.

The regulators will need to consult on the issue with their governments and leaders, said Mr Takorn, who chaired the meeting.

Any additional proposals or amendments to the meeting’s resolution by members must be filed within a month, then the outcome of this year’s meeting will be officially concluded.

Each country needs to figure out the details on how to proceed with revenue collection itself, Mr Takorn said.

According to Mr Takorn, Singaporean and Malaysian regulators indicated they could collect corporate income tax from OTT operators, many of which have head offices set up in those countries.

“The NBTC also needs to figure out a model for revenue collection,” he said, refusing to term the model as a taxation regime.

Revenue collection could be based on the volume of bandwidth usage by OTT operators through telecom infrastructure. “This issue needs to be raised with the NBTC board again,” Mr Takorn said.

After the revenue collection approach is clearly defined, it will be forwarded to the cabinet for consideration, he said.

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