What Is OTT Service?

Over-The-Top service explained

Family with grandparents doing Facetime with iPad
Artur Debat / Getty Images

OTT stands for over-the-top and means “value-added.” Most of us have been using OTT services without actually realizing it. Simply put, OTT refers to the service you use over the network services of your service provider.

OTT Services

Here is an example to better understand the concept:

You have a 4G data plan with a mobile operator, from which you have bought a smartphone and with which you have GSM calls and SMS service. Then, you use Skype or any other VoIP service to make cheaper and free voice calls and SMS using the 4G network. Skype is an OTT service.

Using the Internet the Way You Want

The network service provider utilized for an OTT service has no control, no rights, no responsibilities, and no claim on the latter. The network carrier only carries the IP packets from source to destination. They can be aware of the packets and their contents but can do nothing much about it, which makes VoIP an alternative to expensive phone calls. In essence, the caller does not pay for the dedicated phone line, as is the case with traditional telephony, but uses the existing internet without dedication or rental.

Smartphones revolutionized OTT services, namely voice and video services over wireless networks since these devices have multimedia and advanced communication functions.

Free and Cheap Calls and SMS With VoIP

Among its numerous benefits, VoIP allows communicators to save money on calls and text messages. The services enable you to use your smartphone with the underlying network to make free calls and send free text messages.

Internet TV

OTT has also been a vector in the proliferation of internet TV, also known as IPTV, which is the legal distribution of videos and television content over the internet. These video OTT services are obtained online from sites offering sustained and constant streaming video content.

What Will Network Carriers Do?

Telecoms have lost hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue to VoIP OTT operators, and this excludes video and other OTT services. Network carriers will, of course, react.

We have seen reactions in the past, with restrictions imposed on their networks. For example, when Apple’s iPhone was released, AT&T imposed a restriction on VoIP services over its 3G network. After pressure from users and the FCC, they finally lifted the restriction. Fortunately, we aren’t seeing many of those restrictions now.

The telcos have realized that they can’t fight that battle and that maybe they should content themselves with reaping the benefits of offering good 3G and 4G connectivity for users who use OTT services. Some network service providers even have their own OTT service (which is not really OTT, but rather an alternative to it), with favorable rates to its customers.

Now, some users will move entirely out of their reach. It’s those who will use the OTT services such as making calls, sending text messages, and streaming videos – in a Wi-Fi hotspot.

So, as a user, make the most of OTT services. You risk nothing, as the market dynamics suggest that things are only going to get better ahead for consumers.