VietNamNet Bridge – Local authorities are mulling ways to tighten controls on over-the-top (OTT) apps that allow mobile phone users with either 3G or Wifi to make calls and send text messages at no charges.




The Government said on its website that the Prime Minister had asked the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) to issue rules restricting free mobile services using OTT apps such as Viber, Zalo and Kakao Talk.

Before the Prime Minister’s instruction came out, MIC had weighed the possibility of stopping mobile services users from accessing free OTT apps.

Pham Hong Hai, head of the Telecom Department under MIC, insisted that relevant authorities need to seek ways to manage OTT services due to their strong impacts on current mobile carriers. But how the job is done will need consideration to avoid disturbing local users, he said.

According to a source of the Daily, the information ministry is drawing on experiences before it issues rules governing free OTT services. OTT providers, however, said they had yet to make an impact assessment.

The move is rattling OTT users as they would be forced to pay for the services just as what South Koreans are compelled to do in their country, an expert who declined to be named told the Daily.

At a recent seminar on OTT services organized by MIC, Le Hong Minh, general director of VNG Joint Stock Company which provides Zalo social media website, threw support behind an attempt to put OTT services under control. Minh called for fair treatment of both local and foreign companies.

As OTT apps are an avoidable global development trend offering many utilities to users, preventing these apps would go against the global trend, VNG said. In fact, free email services have delivered a blow to the postal services sector but no one has banned them, the company argued.

Local mobile carriers have reportedly called for MIC to restrict OTT apps because those free services have cut into their revenues.

Around 20 million subscribers in Vietnam had OTT apps on their phones at the end of the year. Kakao Talk has set a target of attracting seven million users by late this year while Viber is looking to raise its total users in the country to 10 million by the year’s end. Zalo, meanwhile, has announced its total users reached four million recently.

Source: SGT