UAE is in talks with WhatsApp to lift the ban on WhatsApp calls

Telecommunications Regulatory Authority

The UAE might soon take away the ban on WhatsApp voice calls, marking it the first free voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services to be offered within the country.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) presently restricts the usage of the many applications of VoIP within the UAE, like Skype, Tango, Face time and Viber.

Botim, C’me and YzerChat are the sole VoIP apps approved within the UAE.

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In an interview with CNBC, Mohammed Al Kuwaiti, executive director of the UAE’s National Electronic Security Authority, said “UAE had accumulated its collaborations with massive tech platforms on national security initiatives, particularly with the Facebook-owned WhatsApp”.

“The collaboration with WhatsApp has actually increased, and in many of these projects we saw a very good understanding from them of the concept we have,” he said during the program “Capital Connection”.

“There might be a lift of that ban for WhatsApp voice calls… and this is going to happen soon, this is what we know and understand from the telecommunication authority here in the UAE,” said Al Kuwaiti.

When contacted by Gulf News on Thursday, the TRA declined to comment.

Earlier this year, Gulf News reported that talks were already in process between officials from Smart Dubai and “strategic partners and the telecommunication industry” to raise the VoIP restrictions within the UAE.

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Dr. Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, Director-General of the Smart Dubai Office, solely told Gulf News: “When it involves telecommunications, we are working very closely with our strategic partners and the telecommunication industry to understand with them however we will raise this type of restrictions to boost our economy more.”

Last year, Microsoft confirmed that it had been in talks with the TRA to raise the ban on Skype. Skype is an element of Microsoft Office 365 and at present, only the text-based chat feature in Skype is available for businesses.

In December 2017, Etisalat and du blocked Skype throughout the country because the app provided unlicensed VoIP services, “which falls beneath the classification of prohibited contents as per the United Arab Emirates’ Regulatory Framework.”