ISLAMABAD ( ABRAR MUSTAFA )
In response to recent news reports about a ban on Viber, the free Internet calls service, the UAE’s TRA has issued a statement clarifying the status if the service in the country.
“We have recently seen local newspapers and social networks publishing news with regards to the ‘Viber’ service being blocked in the UAE,” reads the statement from the UAE TRA.
“We would like to clarify that the service was never licensed in the UAE,” the TRA states categorically.
VoIP services in the UAE continue to remain the prerogative of the country’s two licensed telecom providers, and global online services are not allowed and are encrypted.
“The VoIP regulatory policy has only licensed ‘etisalat’ and ‘du’ (the licensees) to provide telecommunication services in the UAE, including VoIP services. This policy still exists and has not been amended,” the TRA statement states.
This is in line with TRA’s last year’s announcement, wherein it had announced in another statement that the Telecommunications Law and the TRA’s VoIP regulatory policy “allows only the licensees (i.e. ‘etisalat’ and ‘du’) to provide telecommunications services in the UAE including VoIP services.”
While Skype’s text messaging is allowed in the country, its VoIP calls remain encrypted and barred. The TRA added in its statement that “this policy has not been amended” as a clarification to rumours that Skype VoIP calls were being made legal.
“As to what the licensees have done in unblocking Skype’s website www.skype.com in the UAE, this action does not change the position of the TRA or amend the policy as this service is considered a Regulated Activity, therefore, it must be provided by a licensee.
“Should the service be provided through a partnership with a third party, both Licensees must seek approval to provide such service after fulfilling the regulatory and technical requirements of the TRA, which has not happened in the case of Skype. VoIP services through Skype are still unauthorised,” TRA had then said.
Recently, rumours about WhatsApp offering free VoIP calls to its 600 million monthly active users have been gaining traction as new leaks point out the inevitability and imminence of the new service.
“The leaked images of the upcoming user interface show that the app has been enabled with other language translations which will be displayed at the time a person receives a call via WhatsApp,” a new report on the popular gaming site The Fuse Joplin says.
Various reports now suggest that Facebook is investing a huge amount of its revenue in revamping WhatsApp’s relationship with various service providers and in establishing a better connectivity over the Internet.