NBTC mulls bandwidth fees, licensing for OTT

NBTC mulls bandwidth fees, licensing for OTT

The telecom regulator is figuring out how to impose an internet bandwidth fee on over-the-top (OTT) companies from the consumption of OTT services outside of traditional internet access charges to subscribers.

OTT companies might also need to apply for an operating licence from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to create a level playing field between OTT and telecom operators, said NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith.

A fee is needed for OTT operators, especially those that are dominant global digital services like social network site Facebook, e-commerce giant Alibaba, instant messaging app Line, Google, online hotel reservation website Agoda, and ride-sharing mobile app Uber, he said.

"A fee could be imposed on OTT services by 2018," said Mr Takorn.

He said initially OTT services running on mobile networks might need an operating licence from the NBTC to run a business in the country.

In addition, they may have to pay a value-added tax to the government for all transactions by merchants, the same as traditional businesses.

Mr Takorn said consumers are increasingly using OTT services such as mobile Voice over Internet Protocol apps, mobile instant messaging, online video and TV, and online shopping, in part because most of them are being offering free.

The increase in popularity has lead to a drastic increase in revenue for OTT operators. In contrast, telecom operators have doubled their internet bandwidth capacities every year so users can view YouTube without any buffering, he said.

"We need to figure out proper ways and measures to govern the OTT industry and ensure fairness in the telecom industry," said Mr Takorn.

He said the NBTC will hold an open forum for discussion on this issue on Sept 12 this year in Bangkok. The forum will allow related companies to express their thoughts about OTT. Representatives of all the telecom regulators in Asean, 50 telecom operators in the region and OTT service providers will be invited.

Mr Takorn said the decision to develop a fee for OTT operators followed a meeting of the Asean Telecommunication Regulators' Council last week in Malaysia that focused on the challenges of OTT services to business ecosystems.

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