O2’s CEO Ronan Dunne (pictured) has called for the Government to take action to ensure
that mobile operators’ compliance with existing security laws is not placing them at a ‘competitive disadvantage’ against over-the-top (OTT) providers.
Speaking at a media dinner following the network’s quarterly results, Dunne said: ‘If you are licensed under the communications act and regulated by Ofcom, there are certain things that you are required to do – if you are an OTT provider you are not required to do them. Our view has always been that it should be a level playing field in the provision of services.
'When people talk about net neutrality what I think is often lost is the point that there needs to be that level playing field for the provision of services over the internet. If we do that then I think that everybody is happy.
‘There’s a separate question over the replacement of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (DRIP) Act and how the Government will address the fact that a significant amount of voice communications that were previously on the networks of regulated operators, and therefore available for legal interceptors, are now going across other platforms. That’s a question for the security services in the context of the development of new legislation. And I suspect that there will be some proposals and suggestions in relation to that.
‘My challenge is always; don’t put me at a competitive disadvantage by doing the right thing from a national security point of view. I shouldn’t be left at a commercial disadvantage for being a good citizen.’
Dunne played down the threat that OTT providers currently pose to network operators in relation to voice services. In the past few years WhatsApp and Facebook have launched voice services, while Apple’s iOS to iOS video calling application FaceTime was launched in September 2013. Dunne believes that these services still have a way to go before they’ll challenge the major networks: ‘The UK market is very different, most of my contract customers have unlimited voice. If they want inferior quality over WhatsApp they can have it, that’s fine. In fact they can use their data package to do it.
‘Cellular networks were built to deliver great-quality voice; in my experience the protocols where you try to mimic that over IP via WhatsApp or even when you use Apple’s FaceTime, when you use the voice function are actually an inferior service compared with when you use the FaceTime video service.
‘So as an alternative when you don’t have cellular coverage, they are fine. But actually cellular is a brilliant bearer for voice, the quality is exceptional. We have HD voice as well, so if you don’t have a cost issue you would never ever migrate off the service for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). And most of my customers have unlimited voice, so it’s no challenge to our business plan.’