|06 November, 2019

UAE may lift ban on WhatsApp voice calls soon, says cybersecurity authority head

The UAE has blocked VoIP calls and instead residents have to use apps such as Botim, C'Me and HiU Messenger

Men pose with smartphones in front of displayed Whatsapp logo in this illustration September 14, 2017.

Men pose with smartphones in front of displayed Whatsapp logo in this illustration September 14, 2017.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

The UAE has increased its collaboration with WhatsApp and might lift the ban on voice calls soon, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, executive director of the UAE's National Electronic Security Authority (Nesa), said there is now a good understanding with WhatsApp on different aspects.

"The collaboration now happening with WhatsApp has increased and we are working on many aspects. (We are) collaborating here in the UAE and in many of those (aspect) we saw a very good understanding of the concept. There might be a lift of that ban for (WhatsApp) voice calls or broadcasting of many of the things that they do," Al Kuwaiti told CNBC in an interview.

"And this is going to happen soon. This is what we know and understand from the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) here in the UAE," he said in an interview.

TRA maintains that the availability of VoIP is the choice of licenced telecommunication providers - du and Etisalat.

The UAE has blocked Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls and instead the residents have to use locally authorized VoiP apps such as Botim, C'Me and HiU Messenger.

Previously, senior UAE businessmen urged the authorities to open voice calls through Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp.

Khalaf Al Habtoor, chairman, Al Hatboor Group, had asked the that UAE telecom firms to allow VoIP calls as the UAE strives towards becoming number one country in everything including communications sector.

"I would like to talk about a very important issue. A lot of people complain (about it). 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," Al Habtoor said in a video statement last year.

Arabic daily Al Ittihad reported earlier this year, that the UAE telecom regulator was holding talks with Microsoft and Apple that focus on the potential lifting of a ban on Skype and FaceTime.

waheedabbas@khaleejtimes.com

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