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Thousands lose cheap calls as Du blocks Skype

UAE telecom bans internet phone service, latest in string of web restrictions.

Thousands of people can no longer make cheap calls to family and friends abroad after UAE telecom Du banned internet phone service Skype, the latest in a string of recent internet restrictions rolled out by the operator.

Residents living in Dubai's free zones and freehold developments owned by Emaar Properties and Nakheel first noticed disruption to their Skype service last week, complaining that although they could access the Skype website they could not make phone calls over the internet.

In a statement emailed to ArabianBusiness.com, Farid Faraidooni, Du commercial executive vice president, confirmed a partial ban was now in place.

“Du complies with all the guidelines of the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA) with regard to content filtering. Accordingly, as per the TRA's instructions, only PC to phone and phone to PC communications are blocked - voice over internet protocol (VoIP),” Faraidooni said.

Du's actions appear to contradict comments made by CEO Osman Sultan in an interview with ArabianBusiness.com in April, in which he said subscribers would not lose access to Skype under new internet restrictions.

Du in April joined rival telecom Etisalat and began filtering internet content through the UAE proxy server. Previously Du subscribers had unfettered access to the web.

The proxy server blocks websites that contain content pertaining to pornography, alcohol, gambling, hatred, child abuse or terrorism, according to the TRA.

At the time Sultan said only websites with "offensive" content would be blocked under the new filtering policy.

The TRA is currently finalising new regulations covering internet access in the UAE, with the 'Internet Penetration Policy' expected to be published before the end of this year.

On Monday Du issued a press release offering cheaper international calls to its customers. For each second of an international call, customers will receive one fil of free credit.

The Freetime offer began on Monday and applies to Du mobile customers.