Fin24 users reject WhatsApp regulation

WhatsApp dominates South Africa's instant chat landscape. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
WhatsApp dominates South Africa's instant chat landscape. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town – Fin24 users have reacted with derision to mobile operators suggesting that over the top (OTT) providers like WhatsApp should be regulated.

Fin24 reported on Monday that Vodacom’s chief executive Shameel Joosub called for regulation of OTT players, echoing MTN CEO Mteto Nyati.

“I just don't get it,” fumed Fin24 user Gregg.

“Seriously when people use WhatsApp and they send videos pictures or sound clips they are using data. If the customer runs out of his or her data bundle then they are charged at R2 per MB. The average video is about 3-4 MB or R6 - R8 to send.
Who benefits from this data usage....Duh! It infuriates me,” he added.

READ: Vodacom won't block WhatsApp, says CEO

Fin24 user Petar said that the decline of SMS has put pressure on mobile operators.

“It is with interest that I have read first MTN and now Vodacom trying to make the argument that OTT should be regulated or contribute to the cost of the networks infrastructure.

“That makes absolutely no sense at all.

“The networks charge for data (which is how the OTT operate) and judging by Vodacom's recent results, made almost R9bn in SA from data charges. The end consumers are therefore already paying for OTT apps like WhatsApp.

“What this lays bare is that the networks have been price gorging customers on many items like SMS for years and are now surprised when consumers have an alternative, more effective choice.”

Fin24 user Thobeka suggested that mobile operators should focus on consumer innovation.

“All I hear when the likes of Vodacom and MTN complain about this, I hear greed. They want their sticky fingers in every pie while still charging us exorbitant prices for data. What they don’t realise is that the world is changing, and it’s changing fast. Adapt or die.

“While they are trying to regulate everything to protect their bottom line, the world will move on and leave them in the dust. Who knows, maybe in five years’ time, fibre and Wi-Fi might be everyday life to an extent that we won’t even a traditional cellphone.

“We might all be Skyping. I don’t know but someone out there is already working on another game-changer. WhatsApp saw an opportunity and went where companies like Mxit didn’t think to go. Mobile companies should be at the forefront of innovation that leverages their infrastructure instead of whining.”

Fin24 user Justine echoed that sentiment, but took issue with the cost of data.

“I find the comments from both Vodacom and MTN quite apt as they have both been charging their South African clients exorbitant rates for data for ages. The quality of their networks has been on a constant decline and today the amount of dropped calls is at such a high rate it's almost accepted as the norm by customers.

“Now that technology is changing and there is a real threat to the traditional expensive "cellphone" cost/revenue model which has been forced on the local SA consumer they are waking up to find a new communication world linked by Wi-Fi.

“The South African consumer has been at the mercy of these two giants since the inception of the expensive monopolistic cellphone/data services offering first came to SA, they have not adjusted to the change in technology fast enough and so now once again the consumer must suffer at the hands of an expensive outdated corporate.”

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