The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) telecom operator Etisalat has unblocked the online calling service Skype, the company officially confirmed on its social networks.
Du, has also unblocked the service, and tried to make calls through the service apprently without success.
The internet phone service Skype remains unauthorised, despite the unblocking of its website by the UAE’s two internet providers.
However, the internet regulator, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), issued a statement today saying that du and Etisalat “must seek approval to provide such service after fulfilling the regulatory and technical requirements of the TRA, which has not happened in the case of Skype“.
It added: “VoIP [voice over internet protocol] services through Skype are still unauthorised.”
The regulator said the rules on the issue were unchanged, and only Etisalat and du qre currently licensed to provide VoIP services in the UAE.
While technically and legally there is no problem in authorising VoIP services, neither Microsoft – which owns Skype – nor du or Etisalat have such authorisation for Skype.
The announcement was first made via Etisalat’s Twitter account, but the tweet has been deleted. “The long awaited app is finally available for all, Enjoy calling your long distance friends & family using #Skype,” the message said. Etisalat announced yesterday on its Facebook page that it had lifted the block on Skype’s website, while du users have been able to access the site for several weeks.
Access to Skype had been partially denied for several years. Using Skype was already possible in the country for Skype-to-Skype communications, but phone calls from a computer to a landline were blocked.
There is no ban on Skype services in the UAE, the head of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said on Tuesday. Mohammad Al Ganem, head of TRA, told Gulf News that there is no restriction in Skype services in the UAE, but the service must be provided by one of the telecom service providers in the UAE and not through a third party. Al Ganem said that telecom providers etisalat and du should apply for permission to deliver the service.. When an official request has been submitted to the TRA, the authority will then apply rules if there is a third party to facilitate the service.
Ali Al Ahmad, Etisalat Chief Corporate Communication Officer, said the regulation on VoIP has not changed in the UAE. Al Ahmad said there are international companies that want to introduce Skype directly in the UAE market, but if a third company wants to enter the market, they must contact the two main telecom providers and present a proposal, which will be studied and presented to the TRA.
(Skype is a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service and software that allows users to make calls through the internet. Calls to other Skype users are free, while calls to landline and mobile phones are charged to the user’s account.)
“It is becoming less sustainable to maintain restrictions on VoIP because the way people use communications is rapidly changing,” said Matthew Reed, a principal analyst at Informa in Dubai. Therefore, operators in UAE are trying to work with these top Internet services, instead of fighting against them.
But, with Skype unblocked, UAE will lose revenues from international calls. While a Skype-call from the UAE to the US costs $0,019 per minute, with Etisalat costs $0,58 per minute.
Now, citizens ask when and whether they might be allowed to use other VoIP services such as Apple’s FaceTime or Viber, which are governed by the same rules as Skype.
However, not all residents have access to Skype. Etisalat and Du treat the calling service differently, and citizens cannot change from one operator to another because each company provides services to specific areas.
The announcement took place the same day Microsoft, Skype’s owner, decided to end its Windows Live Messenger in some parts of the world in favour of the VoIP service.