Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 23rd 2015 Contents It proved to be one of the Telecom-
munications Authority s more heated
consultations, but for once, the fire
wasn t coming from the floor.
Gathered in one room were repre-
sentatives of Tatt, Digicel, TSTT and
Columbus Communications to discuss
the ticklish matter of what people do
with their Internet connections.
Digicel, which has taken the lead in
making hard moves on the issue of
Over the Top (OTT) services by block-
ing, albeit briefly in T&T, third party
Voice over IP (Voip) software, spoke
first on the matter, their General Coun-
sel, David Geary reiterating the points
the company has been making from
the start (http://ow.ly/OB6eq).
Acknowledging that OTT services
are generally positive, Geary lamented
that the company was forced into com-
petition with providers "that are not
required to hold a concession and who
are not subject to the same rules."
"If a class of activity is regulated,"
Geary argued, "then just because it is
carried across the Internet does not
make it immune from regulation."
OTT services such as Voip, Geary
said, are in direct competition with the
revenue streams of licensed companies
but pay no taxes and provide no ancil-
lary services, such as emergency calling,
which Tatt requires of its concession-
They contribute nothing to the infra-
structure that they use to deliver those
services and exist outside of the legal
frameworks of this country.
Those revenue declines are likely to
be the largest issue on the agenda of
any telecommunications company
objecting to the presence of Voip soft-
ware on their networks.
Citing research on the subject, Geary
noted that the drops will be significant.
Estimates in global revenue drops for
mobile operators estimate that voice
and SMS income on incoming inter-
national calls will drop by 30 to 40 per
cent while overall revenues look to
decline by as much as 25 per cent.
Digicel, he said, had seen a 40 per
cent drop in international calls over the
last 18 months.
"It will not be possible for increases
in data usage to make up that shortfall,"
The statements from TSTT s Christa
Leith were more conciliatory, offering
a hands off position on how customers
used their network but declaring the
company willing to seek collaborative
arrangements with such providers.
The position of Columbus Commu-
nications, as articulated by David Cox,
himself a former regulator, was more
determinedly agnostic about the use
that its users made of its networks and
declared the Tatt consultative document
a "watershed in regional deliberations
on the matter."
"What is the role of network man-
agement policies?" asked Cox, who
noted the need to manage traffic, since
bandwidth is finite.
Cox was clear that Flow, Columbus
customer facing ISP, would not engage
in the blocking of OTT services (a TTCS
discussion on blocking is here:
"Voip and IPTV are legitimate tech-
nologies that are used by local telecom-
munications companies," Christa Leith
said, "but does the model of an OTT
provider compromise the local com-
Since OTT services are usually dis-
ruptive to established services, it seems
that such conflicts are inevitable.
It also remains to be seen what the
position of Flow will be when the OTT
services delivering cable television pro-
gramming, already in use locally but
still to spread into the mainstream,
begin cutting into their customer base.
Kim Mallalieu, a Tatt director and
UWI computing lecturer asked from
the audience perspective, how the
mechanics of such regulation and its
enforcement would work.
Kieran Meskell, Head of Regulatory
Affairs for Digicel T&T responded that,
"Blocking is the default enforcement
tool, if a provider using legacy con-
nections doesn t comply with regula-
tion, Tatt s action would be to block
Mallalieu clearly wanted more nuance
than that, but it wasn t forthcoming.
In his presentation, Columbus David
Cox spelled out the situation quite
clearly: "If you can enforce, then you
should do something, if you cannot
enforce, that should be factored into
There seemed to be general agree-
ment that there is need for more formal
assessment of the actual presence and
impact of OTT services, something that
Tatt hopes to address in its upcoming
Tatt Internet Usage Survey.
While many concerned voices were
raised from the audience about limiting
OTT services, one of the final clear
voices on the matter was UWI lecturer
Simon Fraser s.
"Voice is dead, long live the data,"
he told the panel.
"If you are a business that depends
on voice, you are pushing against the
wave. If you are a company selling data,
it s the best of times and you will thrive
by getting people to use as much data
as possible. It s all over the top."
"Are we going to regulate everything?
Are we going to cut them off? Well,
they are likely to say fine, you are just
a rounding error in our business."
"This is a much bigger matter than
just Voip. All our regulations, all our
thinking has to change. Stop pushing
against the wave. You ll have more fun
buying a surfboard."
Read an expanded version of this
column here: http://ow.ly/OB62F.
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, June 23, 2015
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Getting into over the top
At Tatt's OTT Open Forum, panelists respond to a question from the floor. From left: Tatt's Kirk Sookram and
Annie Baldeo, Digicel's David Geary and Kieran Meskell and TSTT's Christa Leith. PHOTO: MARK LYNDERSAY
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