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Parly hearing into over-the-top services questioned

Vodacom and MTN have asked that Parliament consider passing a regulation of data services.

FILE: This would mean customers have to pay more tariffs for services such as WhatsApp, Skype and Twitter. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - Questions are being raised about the swift organisation of a hearing of Parliament's telecommunications committee to discuss the future of over-the-top services such as WhatsApp.

Cellphone networks Vodacom and MTN have asked that Parliament consider passing a regulation of data services in order to generate revenue for using the applications.

This would mean customers have to pay more tariffs for services such as WhatsApp, Skype and Twitter.

Technology expert Arthur Goldstuck says he doubts Parliament will pass regulations to assist mobile operators to obtain more revenue, however, the timing of the hearing is peculiar.

"Quickly their parliamentary portfolio committee has agreed to have the hearing, usually it takes longer, so clearly they are under heavy pressure from the network operators."

He says the request from MTN and Vodacom shows how cellphone networks across the world are seeking to "level the playing" fields when it comes to tariffs and revenue.

He says another concern is the possible effect of call revenue, with the advent of voice applications such as Viber and WhatsApp calls.

Goldstuck says both cellphone operators need to come up with more innovative solutions or face a possible public relations disaster that paints them as being anti-consumer.