What is OTT – Over the Top mean? OTT Providers

What is OTT – Over the Top and How do OTT Providers Work?

Over the Top is a term used to refer to Content Providers. So, when you hear Over the Top Providers, they are Content Providers. Content can be any application, any service such as Instant messaging services (Skype, WhatsApp), streaming video services (YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime), voice over IP, and much other voice or video content types.

This post is shared based on the information from my latest book ‘Service Provider Networks Design and Architecture First Edition‘. If you want to understand telecom (Distance communications) and Service Provider Business, I highly recommend you to purchase this book.

An Over-the-Top (OTT) provider provides content over the Internet and bypasses traditional private networks

Some OTT Providers distribute their content over their CDN over their private networks though (Google, YouTube, Akamai).

They deliver the content over traditional ISP networks. The creation of OTT applications has created a conflict between companies that offer similar or overlapping services. The traditional ISPs and Telco have had to anticipate challenges related to third-party firms that offer OTT applications and services.

For example, the conflict between a Content Provider company such as Netflix and a Cable Access Provider Company such as Comcast, which consumers still pay the cable company for having access to the Internet, but they might want to get rid of their cable TV service in favor of cheaper streaming video over the Internet.

While the cable company wants to offer fast downloads, there is an inherent conflict of interest in not supporting a competitor, such as Netflix, that bypasses cable’s traditional distribution channel.

The conflict between the ISPs and the OTT Providers led to the Net Neutrality discussion

Net Neutrality is the principle that data should be treated equally by ISPs and without favoring or blocking particular content or websites. Those who are in favor of Net Neutrality argue that ISPs should not be able to block access to a website owned by their competitor or offer “fast lanes” to deliver data more efficiently for an additional cost.

OTT services such as Skype and WhatsApp are banned in some Middle East countries by some Operators, as OTT applications take some part of their revenue. For example, in 2016, social media applications such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Viber were blocked by the two UAE telecoms companies, Du and Etisalat. They claimed that these services are against the country's VOIP regulations.

In fact, UAE is not the only country blocking access to some OTT applications and services. Many countries in the Middle East have followed the same model. They either completely blocked access to some OTT applications or throttled them, so the voice conversation over these services became near impossible.If you liked this post and would like to see more, please let me know in the comment section below. Share your thoughts so I can continue to write similar ones.

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Orhan Ergun

Orhan Ergun, CCIE/CCDE Trainer, Author of Many Networking Books, Network Design Advisor, and Cisco Champion 2019/2020/2021

He created OrhanErgun.Net 10 years ago and has been serving the IT industry with his renowned and awarded training.

Wrote many books, mostly on Network Design, joined many IETF RFCs, gave Public talks at many Forums, and mentored thousands of his students.  

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