UAE’s restrictions on VoIP will remain in place

“Both du and Etisalat will be badly affected by the introduction of this service here. This is a decision that has to be decided by them, the government and the users,” UAE Minister of Communications Saeed Al Mansouri is quoted as saying.

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By  Christopher Reynolds Published  November 14, 2006

Saeed Al Mansouri, UAE Minister of Communications, has said there are no immediate plans to lift the current ban on the provision of third-party voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone calls in the UAE. The minister stated that any decision to permit VoIP must be in complete cooperation with local telecoms operators Etisalat and du. “Both du and Etisalat will be badly affected by the introduction of this service here. This is a decision that has to be decided by them, the government and the users,” Al Mansouri is quoted as saying. The UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) banned use of consumer VoIP services such as Skype and Net2Phone last year, as these service providers allow users to make low cost local and international calls over their internet connections, bypassing Etisalat’s fixed infrastructure. The regulator argues that such services should be treated like conventional mobile and fixed line services and therefore need licensing. Speaking in October, Adnan Al Bahari, the TRA’s public relations manager, hinted that some licensed VoIP services could be given authorisation before the end of the year. “Currently, we are studying all the aspects of the ban on VoIP facilities. And if we find it is necessary to lift the ban, we’d re-consider our decision” he said at the time. It has also been speculated that both Etisalat and du will be permitted to offer consumer applications of VoIP to the public, and the like cost of these services would still be at a premium to alternative web-based voice calls.

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