UAE could clamp down on new Google services

New US service could threaten Gmail; Google Talk also under spotlight

Tags: Google IncorporatedUnited Arab Emirates
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UAE could clamp down on new Google services The addition of voice services to Google's Gmail chat could see the service blocked in the UAE. (Getty Images)
By  Ed Attwood Published  September 7, 2010

UAE analysts are warning that Gmail services in the country could be blocked, if the introduction of new service from Google goes ahead.

The US giant is planning to roll out regional versions of Google Voice, which has just been introduced in the US as a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service using Gmail's Google Chat interface.

However, given that VoIP services are banned in the UAE unless they are conducted via the three licensed operators - Etisalat, du and Yahsat - there are concerns that any ban on Google Voice could also lead to an interruption of the Gmail service as well.

"If it's a case that you can't separate the two, than it probably gives cause for concern for Gmail users," Irfan Ellam, a telecoms analyst with Al Mal Capital, told Arabian Business.

"The official line from the Telecoms Regulatory Authority (TRA) is that only UAE operators would be allowed to offer VoIP services through the licensed operators. So Google Voice really falls under the same umbrella as Skype from that perspective," he added.

Some pages on the Google Voice website appear to have already been blocked by the TRA.

"Predicting the TRA's moves is not an easy task," said Matthew Reed, a senior analyst with Informa Telecoms & Media.

"Given that some of the other services that offer similar functionality to BlackBerry services - such as Google Talk - are also encrypted it's conceivable that the TRA might turn its attention to these other services, though we can only speculate as to whether they will."

Although the service is not available in the Middle East as yet, a statement from the US-based company provided to Arabian Business confirmed that regional versions of the service were in the pipeline.

"Google VoIP is currently being rolled out in the US only as our first step. The feature is not available in MENA. Google will be rolling out additional localised versions but we have nothing to announce at the moment," the Google statement said.

Arabian Business contacted the TRA, but the body was unable to provide a spokesperson to comment on the issue.

2983 days ago
moosa

This is normal, the TRA want to protect the investment in the telecommunication infrastructure. Also there is some security issue can appear through this service same as the Blackbary
But i think the TRA should force the telecom companies to reduce the prices of the international calls because it's too expensive

2984 days ago
Rob

Companies in the UAE area already moving their Regional HQs again back to places like Egypt etc. Don't understand why the UAE are trying to stop the future so hard. The monopoly of Etisalat and Du results in ridiculous service levels that more and more consumers are fed up with.
The UAE are a fabulous place to be, especially Dubai but the authorities should stop trying to swim against the current.

2985 days ago
walid

while Etisalat still having the monopoly, nothing could be done. prices are high and Etisalat will keep doing what they want.

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