Discussion Papers

No. 440: The Impact of OTT-1-Services on Communication Behaviour – a consumer perspective

Authors: Serpil Taş, René Arnold

(full version only available in German)


OTT-1 services such as Facebook Messenger, LINE, WeChat or WhatsApp have gained considerable popularity in recent years. This discussion paper provides a comprehensive summary of their impact on communication behaviour from different perspectives. Furthermore, we identify questions on the future classification of these services within the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC).

The annual WIK surveys on communication behaviour in Germany show that the complementary use of OTT-1 services and traditional telecommunications services is the rule today. Around 84% of respondents used both types of services to communicate in 2018. Around 13% of the respondents relied exclusively on traditional services. Only 3% exclusively use OTT-1 services. On average, consumers in Germany use around 3 OTT-1 services and around 2 traditional telecommunications services or e-mail in parallel. An explanation for this multi-homing behaviour is that specific services are used for different purposes and selected groups of contacts. In particular the numerous additional functions, which make communication via OTT-1 services richer, increase the intrinsic motivation to use these services. In an empirical test conducted for this discussion paper, they scored more positively than SMS in all areas of the Situational Motivation Scale (SIMS).

The EECC addresses these changes in the actual use of new communications services and classifies them as number-independent interpersonal communication services. Despite the similarity of this new classification to the one developed earlier by BEREC concerning OTT-0 and OTT-1 services, our analysis highlights some open questions that will have to be clarified in practice. In particular, the clear distinction from services where the interpersonal and interactive communication facility is a minor and purely ancillary feature will likely be discussed in the future. With the increasing implementation of all-IP services in the provision of traditional telecommunication services, the question of the future significance of numbers beyond their function as unique identifiers also arises.

In addition, this paper discusses emerging monetization strategies for OTT-1 services. The placement of advertisements in chats appears to be an obvious strategy to monetize the large user population of these services. Due to the increasing development of these services towards complex platforms as well as the integration of external partners, models in which the OTT-1 service earns money by mediating the sale of goods and services become interesting. The major players have furthermore entered the market for application-to-person (A2P) messaging, where they can charge for the delivery of messages. Other providers show that OTT-1 services are a particularly attractive platform to deliver short media content. Additional advertising revenues or even subscription models are conceivable for premium content in the future. Overall, this environment is expected to remain highly dynamic.

Diskussion Paper is available for download.

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