Airtel Africa has called for regulation of companies offering free calls apps as a way of stopping revenue bleeding by mobile phone operators.
Airtel Africa chief executive Christian de Faria, said the over-the-top- service providers (Facebook, Viber and WhatsApp) are profiting from infrastructure deployed by mobile network operators, without paying for the investments.
Being unregulated also means the companies are not paying taxes to governments.
“We are happy with the data revolution that is taking place, but new players are riding on our infrastructure and investment, and yet they are not subject to the same taxes and regulation regimes as operators. We expect regulators to help,” Mr De Faria told delegates at the 2015 International Telecommunication Union Global Symposium for Regulators in Libreville, Gabon.
He said the services are chewing into mobile network revenues. Airtel partnered with the conference that began on Tuesday and ends today.
TALK TRAFFIC DECLINED
Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) 2014/15 second quarter statistics show that Airtel Kenya talk traffic declined substantially to 722 million minutes, corresponding to 9.8 per cent down from 1 billion minutes recorded during the previous quarter.
“Its market share in voice traffic declined to 9.8 per cent down from 13.4 per cent reported during the previous period,” said the CA report.
Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, in its latest economic survey, says significant fall in East Africa roaming calls are blamed on WhatsApp, Viber and Facebook.
Mr de Faria said regulators must intervene by taking action in building a structure that creates an equal playing field for all providers.
Mr Bocar Ba, chief executive Samena Telecommunications Council said no single country or regulatory entity can solve the issue on its own.
Delegates at the conference agreed that a coordinated approach is required to establish a tariff framework that balances the rights of consumers and encourages innovation while rewarding investment in telecommunications infrastructure.
“We need a levelled playing field for all operators, as this will not only allow for equitable competition between over-the-top operators and telecommunications companies, but will also ensure the investments required to deploy these technologies are viable,” said Mr de Faria.
The meeting brought together leaders of international telecommunications companies and regulatory authorities to explore ways that benefit consumers in the emerging digital economy.