TATT revives the discussion about OTT services

TATT revives the discussion about OTT services

Above: Illustration by Simpson33 / 123RF.com

BitDepth #1373 for September 26, 2022

The Telecommunications Authority (TATT) published a new discussion paper on the topic of Over The Top (OTT) services at the end of August.

Listen to Mark Read this column.

The new paper paraphrases a controversial discussion at the highest level about OTTs that has been ongoing since 2015.

Early discussions about the impact of these services were driven by the booming success of new Voice over IP services such as Viber and WhatsApp, which were just beginning to take a significant portion of the income of local telecom service providers.

In the most recent iteration of this ongoing discussion, TATT describes an OTT service as “content, service, or application, accessed by an online public, which may be a direct alternative to and/or may compete with a public carrier and/or streaming service.”

Today, this describes almost everything that people use with any regularity on the public Internet, and over the past seven years, most of the connected users have become quite comfortable with accessing alternative services using Internet protocols.

In the face of increasingly entrenched expectations, TATT is moving forward with plans for the short- and long-term regulation of OTTs using current legislation and the development of international law as a guide with a view to suggesting amendments to domestic law to regulate these services.

With the market for OTT media services amounting to $121 billion, there is a growing expectation that these services will expand the infrastructure that is being made to accommodate it.

Why does TATT want to organize OTT services?

OTT services are now using the existing telecommunications infrastructure at a rate few providers would have expected.

During the covid19 shutdowns, for example, video conferencing has skyrocketed with a commensurate demand for service providers, while video broadcasting has been using increasing bandwidth.

TATT does not report the penetration of OTT services, but an idea of ​​the scope of this use can be inferred from its impact on the numbers reported by the authority.

For example, between 2012 and 2020, according to TATT’s 2021 annual report, total Internet subscriptions doubled from 646,000 to 1147,000.

At that time, revenue from outgoing outbound calls decreased from $263.5 to $58.5 million.
PayTV’s subscription numbers slowly rose over that period, rising from 198,700 to just 242,400.

Netflix doesn’t differentiate the Caribbean in its reporting for Latin America, but the region accounts for roughly 35 percent of the company’s subscriber base, yet only has a one percent growth rate. Europe grows 11 percent; The United States and Canada 10 percent, and the new Asia-Pacific region 9 percent.

It is worth noting that Netflix, the first major streaming provider to officially introduce its product to the TT market, announced its availability in 2011.

Estimates of broadband usage on local networks by broadcaster in recent years have ranged from 50 percent to as much as 80 percent of the bandwidth used.

Even if the authority is somehow able to persuade the region to act collectively on the matter, the total size of the Caribbean is unlikely to persuade any broadcasting service to abide by any regulation it considers too onerous.

TATT reasonably notes that “Trinidad and Tobago may face limitations in establishing regulatory structures for multinational OTT providers. In itself, the market size may be too small to provide significant incentives for OTT providers to retain their services in the country in accordance with licensing requirements.”

Even if the authority is somehow able to persuade the region to act collectively on the matter, the total size of the Caribbean is unlikely to persuade any broadcasting service to abide by any regulation it considers too onerous.

Who is the organizer that wants to explain to Bridgerton fans why they don’t have Netflix anymore?

The two-decade history of cable television’s struggles to license content for its channels provides a useful precedent for this ambition.

In April, Flow announced an arrangement to present Paramount+ to Caribbean viewers, suggesting a penchant for partnership rather than battle.

Digicel has taken the lead locally in developing OTT services like D’Music and BiP, but it’s still making a tangible impact compared to market giants like WhatsApp, YouTube, Netflix and Spotify, which dominate the local markets.

The fight for local content contributions on streaming services is an opportunity for the creative sector, but there are few in the existing catalogs that meet the technical requirements of major broadcast creators (Other services cater to old Caribbean contentDeveloping content for these platforms will be the work of the future.

Finding a leverage point between the growing market demand for OTT services and the lack of these foreign services relative to regional regulation, it’s not clear what TATT’s effective intervention strategy is here, especially since it still fails to enforce something as straightforward as number portability even with strong judgment Legal supports them.


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