Good news, UAE residents, it seems the days of downloading a gazillion apps to speak to your loved ones maybe over soon after a top cyber security official announced the UAE may be in the process of lifting the ban on WhatsApp calls.
Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, executive director of the UAE’s National Electronic Security Authority, told CNBC that the UAE has been building its relationship with tech giants like Facebook and WhatsApp to collaborate on issues concerning national security. “The collaboration with WhatsApp has actually increased, and in many of those (projects) we saw a very good understanding (from them) of the concept we have referring to the Gulf country’s approach to telecoms regulation,” said Kuwaiti.
He added, “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.”
Major communication platforms including FaceTime, Messenger, Skype, and WhatsApp are currently banned under the country’s Voice of Internet Policy (VoIP). The only voice communication apps and platforms available in the country are Botim, HiU Messenger, C’Me and Yzer. Meanwhile Saudi Arabia lifted a ban on internet calls in 2017.
Last year, Microsoft was in a series of talks with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority officials to lift the ban on Skype calls. Many celebrities and entrepreneurs have spoken up regarding the same issue of lifting the ban on VoIP services. In 2018, the Emirati billionaire Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor said in a video statement, “A lot of people use WhatsApp and Skype call everywhere in the world. (They’re) free all over the world except in my country. The telecom companies (in UAE) are blocking it and not allowing it. Therefore, I like to request the management and directors of these companies to release and free the system and enable everybody to enjoy it.”
In a country like #UAE, where we aim to always be pioneers in all we do, #WhatsAppCall should not banned when it is accessible everywhere else in the world. I urge mobile carriers in the UAE to lift the ban, a service free to use in the top nations of the world. #KhalafAlHabtoor pic.twitter.com/Lzx0w24rL5
— Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor (@KhalafAlHabtoor) September 9, 2018
What’s more, earlier this year Gulf News reported that officials have been discussing the idea of Smart Dubai – fully lifting the VoIP restrictions in the UAE. Dr. Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, Director-General of the Smart Dubai Office said, “When it comes to telecommunications, we are working very closely with our strategic partners and the telecommunication industry to understand with them how we can lift these kinds of restrictions to boost our economy more.”