Only Etisalat and du licensed to provide telecommunication services in the UAE, including VoIP services.
External VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) service providers such as Viber are illegal in the country, the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said on Tuesday.
In a Press statement, the regulator said: “We have recently seen local newspapers and social networking (sites) publishing news with regards to the Viber service being blocked in the UAE. We would like to clarify that the service was never licensed in the UAE.”
Viber service allows users to make free phone calls and send text messages to anyone who has the application installed. Like Skype, the application uses VoIP to connect contacts free of charge.
Viber-to-Viber and Skype-to-Skype calls are free of charge, provided the users are connected to the Internet. However, the TRA’s regulatory policy deems both the applications “unlicensed”.
The statement from the TRA added: “The VoIP regulatory policy has only licensed Etisalat and du to provide telecommunication services in the UAE, including VoIP services. This policy still exists and has not been amended.”
Available on Android, Windows Phone and iOS devices, the application is used worldwide by more than 300 million people. The Viber app uses a user’s mobile number as the user ID and syncs with the mobile contact list, automatically detecting contacts who have Viber installed.
It remains to be seen whether the telecom regulator will consider regulating the use of Whatsapp after the company recently announced plans to launch free voice messaging service.
Waheed Rahman, a resident who used Viber earlier, said the service was more convenient than using Skype or making regular calls. “It automatically detects your contacts and lets you make calls easily when you are connected to the Internet. Sometimes the voice quality is not great and the calls don’t connect, making it unreliable. However, now knowing that the service is illegal … I don’t think anyone will risk using it.”
While telecom operators have unblocked Skype’s website www.skype.com in the UAE, the TRA policy still considers the service as a regulated activity.