Vietnam last month became the latest government to brand OTT voice and messaging apps a threat to operator revenues. According to Reuters, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said the government is working on a policy to deal with OTT apps, and that an actual ban of such apps is one option the table.
Whether the Vietnamese government takes that route remains to be seen. It wouldn't be the first to do so - Saudi Arabia reportedly banned Viber in June. And where regulators haven't blocked OTT apps, some have tried heavy regulation.
In South Korea, for example, regulator KCC made it legal for cellcos to charge extra to use VoIP apps on their networks. In other markets, operators have attempted to either block OTT apps on their own, or cripple them by throttling their bandwidth.
What many have learned, though, is that blocking OTT apps is often a thankless and pointless exercise. Customers resent being unable to access services they already use, and the truly determined can resort to Wi-Fi offload for their OTT needs, even if that does mean having to sit in café or hotel lobbies to get messages or make VoIP calls.
A number of cellcos are electing to go on the offense with their own OTT services, to include RCS/joyn. But an August survey conducted by mobilesquared and commissioned by tyntec found that just 7% of cellcos and MVNOs believe joyn is the solution to combat OTT voice and messaging services, while 29% believe joyn can't beat OTT apps, and 36% aren't sure one way or the other.
Interestingly, another 29% said that while joyn could compete against OTT apps, the real problem was that it's taken too long to develop. That's been a common criticism of RCS and a worry for cellcos whose main challenge in competing with OTT players is the sheer speed at which they can roll out services. It doesn't help that OTT apps are also more familiar to users and (crucially) free of charge.