Over-the-top services (OTT), such as WhatsApp, Skype and WeChat, could be regulated in South Africa depending on the outcome of planned Parliament hearings next week by the Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services.

OTT services allow mobile users to use services such as instant messaging and voice calls over data networks. Users only need to buy data from mobile telecom operators in order to access OTT services. The costs thereof are generally lower in comparison with traditional telephone calls or SMS and this, of course, poses a threat to the revenues of established mobile operators.

Last year South Africa's two biggest cellphone networks, Vodacom and MTN, asked Parliament to probe OTT services and their effect on business with a view to passing regulations for data services. Cell C on the other hand have chosen to collaborate with OTT operators, such as WhatsApp and Facebook to offer free access to social network services and selected websites.