Belarusian Information Technologies and Communications Minister Sergei Popkov says the country is investigating ways to introduce new legal ‘instruments’ in Belarus to allow it to make a profit from services such as Skype and Viber. In a press conference this week, Popkov confirmed the plan, saying: ‘We have a workgroup in place and we will suggest some instruments to the government in order to monetise Skype, Viber services and other similar technologies to some extent.’ The Belarusian authorities are all too aware that over-the-top (OTT) type serves such as these are becoming increasingly popular, but result in a loss of revenue for traditional network operators (in this case Beltelecom) which, unlike OTT providers, are tasked with developing extensive physical infrastructure. With independent research suggesting that apps like Skype and Viber typically result in an approximate 10%-15% drop in service revenues for the incumbent, Popkov stressed that ‘superfluous traffic can be monetised,’ to resolve the problem.
The minister also tackled the issue of the government’s plan to raise internet access prices this year, stressing that the rise would be limited to ensure it did not adversely impact the market’s development. ‘The previous time we did that [raise internet access rates] was in January 2014. Now we are going to consider raising the rates bearing inflation in mind. As far as rates on regulated services are concerned, the prices can be raised to cover the costs involved. For instance, last year Beltelecom lost about BYR1 trillion [USD66.8 million] due to regulated tariffs,’ explained Popkov.