Business VoIP Featured Article

Billionaire Gets Behind Effort to Lift UAE Ban on Calling Apps

September 14, 2018

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC

The Khaleej Times this week reported that billionaire Khalaf Al Habtoor is pushing telecom leaders in the United Arab Emirates to allow the nation’s residents to make free calls using over-the-top apps Skype and WhatsApp. This individual – who is chairman of 60-year-old diversified trading, manufacturing, and service sector business Al Hatboor Group – apparently indicated that embracing these technologies would align with the UAE’s efforts to be a leader in the world.

Since April, Apple (which has the FaceTime over-the-top app) and Microsoft (which owns Skype) have been talking with UAE regulators in an effort to get the ban lifted. And last month The National reported that “Microsoft is ‘hopeful’” that the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority will allow people in the country to use Skype going forward.

And in May CNBC reported that the UAE ban “is in place because of the country's telecoms laws, which essentially allow a monopoly of the sector by its largest telecommunications companies, Etisalat and Emirates Integrated Telecommunications (also know as Du).

“Residents have to pay to use their calling services instead of being able to use the free internet ones, and often complain about high prices. Despite the bans, people are still sometimes able to use Skype and FaceTime, but frequently deal with glitches,” said CNBC, adding that several Middle Eastern countries like Oman and Qatar have FaceTime and Skype calling bans.

Saudi Arabia used to as well, but recently lifted its ban. However, the country is monitoring and censoring the calls, as this Reuters article reports.

This Skype support page says “It has been brought to our attention that our website and services have been blocked by the ISPs in the United Arab Emirates. That means you won't be able to use Skype in the United Arab Emirates.”

It goes on to say: “We are working towards getting Skype re-enabled. We’re passionate about the benefit that Skype offers to our users around the world by facilitating communication and enabling collaboration.”

Edited by Maurice Nagle



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