OTT services like Telegram, WhatsApp must be managed locally: government

By Luu Quy   March 23, 2023 | 08:09 pm PT
OTT services like Telegram, WhatsApp must be managed locally: government
Several OTT services, like Zalo, Viber and Telegram, are displayed on a smartphone. Photo by VnExpress/Luu Quy
Over-the-top media services, including popular messaging apps like Telegram, need to be managed under the Law on Telecommunications, according to amendments to it proposed by the government.

The Ministry of Information and Communications said OTT services could be considered direct substitutes for traditional communications like calling and texting, and popular apps like Zalo, Viber, Telegram, and WhatsApp come under this category.

"There are currently no provisions in the law for managing them, and so there is no way to protect users and information safety and security."

The ministry also called for a level playing field for domestic and foreign businesses. Specifically, for OTT telecom services that collect fees, domestic providers need to be approved to do so, while international providers need to have commercial agreements with an approved domestic provider to do so, it proposed.

Even for OTT telecom services that do not have fees, the ministry proposed that their providers still need to register with the information ministry. International, large-scale providers with service in Vietnam meanwhile must either have commercial agreements or place their representative offices in Vietnam to make sure they abide by local law.

At a conference held Thursday to discuss the amendments, Vu Tu Thanh of the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council said OTT service providers have no connection with telecom providers.

"For instance requiring Viber to sign an agreement with VNPT ... We don't know exactly what terms such an agreement would have," Thanh said.

Officials proposing the amendments yet said managing OTT services will ensure users' protection and information security.

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