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TRA says Skype users in UAE are 'legally liable'

Etisalat and Du are given the right to block illegal VoIP traffic

Etisalat and Du are given the right to block illegal VoIP traffic.
Etisalat and Du are given the right to block illegal VoIP traffic.

The United Arab Emirates Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) says that voice calls provided by popular VoIP client Skype are considered a 'regulated activity' and that anyone using the software will be 'legally liable'.

"...it is illegal to use such software to make calls (e.g. Skype-out/Skype-in), unless this third party (e.g. Skype) is licensed by the TRA to provide such services or a Licensee provides the service in collaboration with this third party," the TRA claims on their site.

The TRA today announced changes to its VoIP policy so that licensed entities including Etisalat and Du can offer a broader range of VoIP services in the country. Etisalat is the first operator to take advantage of the updated policy, announcing plans to initially design and deploy a bespoke VoIP-based solution for enterprise businesses.

Any other company keen to provide VoIP services needs to start the process of being licensed by the TRA or explore partnerships with existing licensees.

The new VoIP policy however has exemptions for a ‘Closed Group Network' where calls originate and terminate in the UAE itself, or when it exists for a ‘Public Interest Purpose'. This could include educational situations for recognised academic institutions as well reasons that benefit government entities.

In a recent interview with Skype MEA boss Rouzbeh Pasha, he said that access to the site Skype.com was blocked in the UAE but that there were people in the country who used the software through their iPhone or had downloaded Skype to their laptop while out of the country to make calls over the internet.

But the TRA says that anyone using the software will be "legally liable", with Etisalat and Du being given the right to block illegal traffic.

VoIP legalisation in the United Arab Emirates has been the subject of much debate but Pasha believes country's TRA is "doing what they think is in the benefits of the country".

UPDATE: Skype reacts to TRA's VoIP stance