UAE May Lift Ban On Skype And Face-time
UAE May Lift Ban On Skype And Face-time: Microsoft and Apple are in discussions with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) federal government to lift its ban on Skype and FaceTime calling, which have been illegal in the Gulf country for years.
UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) Director General Hamad Obaid Al Mansouri confirmed the talks this week, citing Microsoft and Apple’s growing investment plans in the UAE and the desire to forge closer relationships with tech companies as primary reasons.
Skype and FaceTime, as well as other Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services like Whatsapp and Viber that allow free calling via an internet connection, are banned in the UAE, though their messaging platforms are not.
Several other Middle Eastern countries including Qatar and Oman have Skype and FaceTime calling bans in place.
First launched by a team of Swedes and Estonians in 2003, Skype was initially bought by Ebay in 2005 for $2.6 billion. Microsoft acquired the video calling service in 2011 for $8.5 billion.
UAE Service Providers: Etisalat and Du are licensed to offer VoIP services in the UAE
In the UAE’s case, the 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. Only at the start of 2018 did the government take more robust steps to fully block Skype.
Microsoft has launched for the first time two data centers in the UAE and that cover the entire Middle East.
Analysts say lifting the ban will significantly help small and medium-sized enterprises.
Apple’s Face Time Not Available In iPhones in UAE
An Apple spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. However Apple is also expanding its stores in UAE shopping malls.
Apple’s Face Time is not available on iPhones sold in the UAE, but the app is said to generally work if used on phones purchased abroad. The talks will come as welcome news to many residents put off by steep calling costs.
UAE Monitoring Mechanism
The UAE government, like many other Gulf states, often monitors its citizen’s communications, and will likely try to access the information transmitted over the VoIP platforms if the bans are lifted.
Reason Behind Ban
- Encryption used in these platforms has been cited as a reason behind the ban, and January’s crackdown on Skype came after Microsoft announced it would offer users end-to-end encryption.
Not everyone is a fan of the ban. Last year Saudi Arabia lifted its own ban on VoIP services, including Skype and WhatsApp.
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