OTT regulatory framework will be flexible, says NBTC

The draft regulatory framework for over-the-top (OTT) businesses will have flexible conditions and proper measures, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) says.

The framework, currently being drafted by an NBTC subcommittee, is scheduled to be ready by end of this year, said chairman ACM Thares Punsri. But he declined to elaborate whether these innovative companies will have to be registered under the licensing regime.

"It is too early to say. NBTC has to move carefully and make it in accordance with the overall OTT regulatory concept, especially the joint regulatory concept of the Asean Telecommunications Regulators' Council (ATRC)," ACM Thares said.

OTT is a digital application or service operated on internet networks such as mobile VoIP apps, mobile instant messaging, online video and TV, and online music.

ATRC members comprising telecom regulators in the bloc's 10 countries are now discussing the joint regulatory principles for OTT businesses. The principles are expected to be established by year-end.

Yesterday, the NBTC hosted a two-day meeting in Bangkok entitled "Over The Top", attended by ATRC members from the 10 Asean countries, and telecom and OTT operators.

ACM Thares said the telecom regulators will discuss all OTT-related dimensions, with a conclusion to be made today. Five major issues are innovative business of OTT, effects of OTT to the financial and telecom sectors, OTT framework development, and consumer protection.

An initial conclusion from the members will be passed to ATRC's formal meeting.

"Regulators in Asean including NBTC should shape their OTT regulatory framework in line with the ATRC's resolution in order to create an international standard for OTT ecosystem," said ACM Thares.

Peter Lovelock, director of Technology Research Project Corporate (TRPC) Singapore, said regulators should not set strict measures to govern OTTs because OTTs create new business as well as enhance opportunities for local businesses and directly lead to broad-based economic growth of countries.

According to a TRPC report, OTTs encourage the use of digital technologies, including social media and e-commerce.

In Asean, there were 339 million internet users as of January 2017, or 53% penetration, and 306 million active social media users or 47% penetration of the region's population. The most popular OTT service is messaging apps.

In Thailand, the e-commerce market is poised to grow to US$123 billion by 2020, almost double from its size of $72 billion in 2016, according to the TRPC report. Over 50% of e-commerce purchases are made over mobile. Thailand is the world's largest social commerce market with 51% of online shoppers having purchased directly via social media.

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