The telecommunications market is characterised by ongoing technological changes that bring improvements in the speed and quality of data transmission. The most recent transformation that changed the communication platform occurred in the 1990s, when previously dominant fixed-line providers were challenged by cellular telephony that offered customers reliable access to voice and messaging services on a mobile platform.
Today, another large-scale transformation seems to be taking place. This time the telecommunications operators are threatened by the rise of over-the-top (OTT) service providers. OTT services offer a new approach to telecommunications in that solutions are provided over Internet or intranet data connections. The model relies on the Internet Protocol (IP) networks deployed by operators and delivers services such as voice, instant messaging, video communications, and a range of other applications. It is believed that OTT services are dampening traditional telecommunication operators’ revenues from voice and short message communications.
The current write-up aims to highlight the journey of the South African telecommunication operators since their emergence in 1994. This is followed by a brief analysis of the OTT market landscape. The objective is to understand how can telecommunication operators and OTT service providers work together by identifying the role that each of these entities plays in the communications value chain and by highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.