Zero-Rating and Other Initiatives by Over-The-Top Players in Africa: Do They Contribute to Universal Access and Service?
35 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2019
Date Written: July 26, 2019
Although the mobile telecommunications market in Africa has witnessed unprecedented growth since liberalisation, coverage gaps persist. The effort of governments across Africa to address uneven mobile coverage has given rise to universal access and service (UAS) of mobile telecommunications but due to numerous challenges, coverage gaps persist. An emerging trend within this context is zero-rating and other initiatives by over-the-top (OTT) players, which this paper examines from a UAS perspective using a multi-case study with an analytical framework developed from five principles of UAS.
The paper finds that some zero-rated services and other OTTs initiatives contribute to UAS, albeit with some drawbacks and limited contribution to physical infrastructure. While this has prompted various concerns, including the need to regulate OTTs, this paper recommends that an eclectic dialogue and debate -- a wider discussion that critically draws on the inputs of a diverse group of multi-stakeholders in the industry - is critical to achieving a pragmatic regulatory framework as coverage gaps, especially for the Internet in Africa, need wide-ranging innovative solutions and resources including those of OTTs.
Keywords: Africa, Mobile Telecommunications, OTTs, Universal Access and Service, Zero-Rating
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