MTN South Africa CEO Mteto Nyati recently called on industry regulator Icasa to level the playing field between operators and over-the-top (OTT) services like WhatsApp.

“You have to regulate them because clearly they’re making a huge amount of revenue on top of the infrastructure that the operators have paid for. Somehow they have to contribute towards the building of this infrastructure,” said Nyati.

Head of WeChat Africa Brett Loubser spoke to MyBroadband about the statement, saying this isn’t the first time tension between OTT services and operators has surfaced.

“People pay for the data they use. I’m not sure I understand the underlying argument,” he said.

He said WeChat has had talks with networks on the continent, and those will continue. “There are ways for us to work together.”

WhatsApp, WeChat regulated in SA?

An argument put forward by Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub and Orange Horizons CEO S├ębastien Crozier is that OTT services should comply with the same regulations as local communications service providers.

This includes paying tax on revenues earned in South Africa and complying with laws such as RICA.

Loubser agreed that OTT providers need to conform to the regulations of the territories they operate in.

Regarding paying tax in South Africa, Loubser said they currently run out of Hong Kong.

“As we start moving towards real utility like money moving through our system… we are busy setting up local entities and conforming to local laws.”

“Our aim is to set up local entities wherever we operate in Africa. For us it’s just an easier way to operate, otherwise the commercial arrangements can become painful.”