EU Telecoms Regulations Will Soon Apply To OTT Services

Services like WhatsApp will soon be subject to new telecoms regulations as the European Union expands its scope to include OTT applications and other web-based services. 

Under the new rules, affected services must comply with various security and confidentiality provisions including how they must comply with requests from security agencies and in the manner they handle customer data. 

Any service which allows its users to call a phone number online will be affected. Those which don't use a number - like Skype-to-Skype calls - will not require any changes to how they operate. This has been a matter of complaint over the years from competitors in the industry. 

Large telcos such as Spanish giant Telefónica and the French operator Orange have complained for years that companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have required little in terms of regulation allowing for less restricted innovation. 

Reducing the burden of regulation on services has been advocated by some countries in the EU bloc – most notably, Britain. After the vote to leave the EU in the near future, Britain will be less influential within the Union and will enable Brussels to pass further regulations easier. 

Many commissioners on the other side have long maintained that OTT services – in particular, those which allow users to deliver calls and messages via the internet  are the same as telecoms operators and should be subject to similar regulation. 

Some countries, such as France, may act sooner on a national basis. French telecoms regulator Arcep will decide in September whether to force Google, Viber and Skype to register as a telecoms provider.   

The full proposals will be unveiled in mid-September where the measures are sure to cause fierce debate. We'll be keeping an eye on developments and keep you updated.