Rethinking Regulation in the Digital Era

In October, RIS presented to the West African Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) and the Communications Regulators Association of Southern Africa (CRASA) on the role of regulation in the digital era. The purpose of the workshops was to explain three components of regulation in the digital era: The definition of OTTs and how they should be regulated (download here); The impact of OTTs on the MNO revenues (download here); How to rethink ICT sector taxation (download here). In each of the presentations, we explain how regulation is going to have to change in the digital era and that the role of regulators […]

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Digital trade and trust

In a second presentation to the African Union eCommerce Conference held between the 23rd and 25th of November, RIS focused on the role of trust and digital trade. Trust is the engine for digital growth. Digital trade, the digital economy and the fourth industrial revolution are all based on technologies that require trust on both sides of a transaction, be it business to consumer, business to business, government to citizen or government to business. This means new or updated policies, laws and regulations for most African countries. The ideal outcome is where consumers and firms have a common understanding of their rights […]

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Digital trade in Africa

As part of the African Union eCommerce Conference held between the 23rd and 25th of November, RIS presented the findings of its report on Digital Trade and the Digital Economy in Africa. Africa’s trade in digitally-delivered services is tiny, at below 1% of total trade. Online services provided by governments to citizens are also at low levels. This is not surprising, given the weak performance in the enabling platforms of IDs, payments and connectivity. But, these poor rankings show that there is great scope for improvement, and relatively small changes can have big results. Africa’s opportunity lies in combining the benefits […]

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OTT Applications and the Internet Value Chain

Recommendations to Regulators, Policymakers and Tax Authorities In June 2018, the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) published its first Over The Top (OTT) Report on the perspectives of several ICT stakeholder groups on OTT services. The results were illustrative of several myths by Governments, tax authorities, policymakers and regulators about OTTs.  The figure below contrasts some key myths against evidence-based facts. This report, co-authored by RIS, debunks these myths using case studies from several countries and an analysis of OTTs within the context of the Internet Value Chain. Download the full report (PDF) here.

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ICASA’s quick spectrum release

ICASA’s quick spectrum release in response to the COVID-19 pandemic should be the new normal. The COVID-19 pandemic short-circuited the traditional policy and regulatory frameworks, and allocated high demand spectrum within 10 days, after an unsuccessful 14 year process (2006-2020). The spike in broadband demand, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, prompted ICASA to release high demand spectrum with the objectives to ease network congestion, lower the price of access and ensure quality of service. A total of 35 applications were received in response to ICASA’s invitation to apply, issued on the 6th of April. On the 17th of […]

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Did Nigerian operators lose US$ 1 Billion in revenues to OTTs in 2019?

In Nigeria, several publications have made the claim that operators have seen a decline in revenue due to OTTs (see here and here and here). The most common claim is that mobile operators lost over US$ 1 billion in revenue because of WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber, Skype and other OTTs. Following the evidence, the data shows that the opposite is true: the GDP contribution of the telecom sector has increased, subscriber numbers have grown and revenues of the largest two operators have grown. Airtel’s voice traffic increased by 20% in Q4 2019 and voice revenues have increased by 24% between June […]

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Regulatory and tax treatment of OTTs in Africa

Mozilla, in collaboration with RIS, has released a review of the regulatory and tax treatment of OTTs in Africa. The report looks at the underlying causes behind the recent series of social media taxes across Africa. One of the main challenges is the lack of a common definition of OTTs and this means that issues are often conflated that can only be resolved when treated separately. Linked to the lack of a common definition is a misconceived understanding of the Internet value chain and the role of OTTs. To understand the impact of taxes and regulations targeted at social media, this report […]

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Evolving business models are driven by OTT applications

The mobile business model is inevitably evolving from voice and SMS to a mobile Internet access model. The first generation of mobile phones provided voice services, the second generation brought SMS to consumers, and ever since 2.5G it has been about better and faster data. Social media applications drive broadband adoption and data consumption. Policy-makers and regulators should be more concerned with stimulating network investment into 3G+ and less with attempting to protect out-dated business models of operators. Read the full article here.

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Sonatel Group delivers another solid financial performance

Sonatel Group delivers another solid financial performance for the 2018 financial year, with a mobile revenue growth again above 10%. Data revenues grew to CFA 192 billion, a phenomenal 41.3% increase compared to 2017. Sonatel maintains a return on equity of 28% and an EBITDA margin above 45%, both indicators of a highly profitable mobile operator.  The temporary drop in ARPU for Sonatel Mali in 2017 reversed in 2018 indicating potentially increasing revenues for Sonatel Mali in 2019. Sonatel’s claim of losing CFA 20 billion (link) to OTTs is somewhat puzzling given that OTTs may compete with voice and SMS but […]

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OTT tax causes massive decline in estimated internet users in Uganda

The UCC tweeted out the latest figures on the impact of the OTT taxes. The estimated number of Internet users dropped by nearly 30% between March and September 2018, indicating even more severe consequences of the OTT tax than anticipated in the RIS policy brief based on July 2018 data. The other story behind the data released by the UCC is that Internet users changed the way they use social media. People paying the OTT tax and the number of Internet users both dropped by around 15% between July and September 2018. But tax revenues from the OTT tax decreased […]

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