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Skype access could be returning to UAE soon

EXCLUSIVE: Telecoms regulator is developing framework for VoIP operators in the region.

UAE residents longing to regain access to popular internet phone service Skype could eventually see their wish granted, the head of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has announced.

Mohamed Al Ghanim, director general of the TRA, told Arabian Business that Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services had been unlicensed in the UAE since the TRA began operations in 2004.

“Customers and even those (VoIP) companies think that we are blocking them, but we are not blocking them – we are putting a process together for those companies to be licenced and this will take some time. There are challenges associated with it.

“When we licence a company in the UAE, we make sure they have a presence, so if you pay your bill and the company does not provide you with a service, there is a way to recover your money. Customers need to be protected.

“There are many issues to be considered. For example, some of those companies provide very bad voice quality. If you are providing telecom services you have to be licensed as per the UAE Telecom Law," he said.

Popular website Skype allows users to make cheap international phone calls via the internet, rather than fixed phone lines.

Al Ghanim said the TRA was developing a framework for VoIP providers.

“Once we finish our work, then these providers can come to the UAE. We are working on it and we will announce it in due time.”

Meanwhile, Etisalat and Du are licenced to provide some aspects of VoIP services to their customers, he added.

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