The mobile telecommunications sector is one which is heavily regulated, monitored and checked due to its prominence and popularity, as well as the personal nature of the information being shared across the various platforms. Social Media applications and sites are much less so, and the mobile providers have had enough.
Social sharing apps like WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, and services like Skype and Viber (free internet calling services) are largely unregulated and are coming under fire now.
These concerns come just in time for the Ofcom review which happens every 10 years in the UK. Mobile operators will argue that they face very real competition issues with unregulated and free sites. These sites, the mobile services claim, do not have anything like the same regulatory pressure. As a result of the lack of regulation, there is much more scope for innovation, freedom of trial and error and no set guidelines.
Another issue the mobile operators are voicing is that whilst these free internet services advertise and make profits, they do not contribute to infrastructure or network costs. They are essentially piggybanking on the foundations of the established companies and generating income from others expenses.
As companies like BT and Vodaphone have major local and national investments in the UK, and huge public awareness, it seems likely that a strong lobbying effort by big communications businesses will have some effect on the issues if Ofcom decides to investigate this review.
The Irish telecommunications billionaire Denis O’Brien said that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg “Is like that guy who comes to your party and drinks your champagne, kisses your girls, and doesn’t bring anything”. Clearly there has been some animosity building between the Silicon Valley tech wave and the established network building mobile and telecoms operators. Ofcom will have to treat this sensitively, as any decision will reverberate around the world.