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Skype - telco deals will offer 'better value' to users

Firm to open Middle East and Africa representative office in Bahrain

Rouzbeh Pasha, head of Skype Middle East and Africa.
Rouzbeh Pasha, head of Skype Middle East and Africa.

Global IP telephony firm Skype is serious about partnering with telecommunications companies in the Middle East, with regional head Rouzbeh Pasha stating that any deals made will serve to "bring better value" to customers.

The United Arab Emirates Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) recently updated its VOIP policy which clarifies that using Skype is considered ‘illegal' at this stage.

Reacting to the news at the time, Pasha said that in other advanced markets, no license was required to provide IP-based communications and that market prices in the UAE would remain high and few new services deployed until real competition was introduced.

According to TRA rules, Skype needs to either be licensed by the TRA to provide their services in the country or collaborate with the four existing licensees, which also includes Etisalat and Du.

Du chief commercial officer Fareed Faraidooni has already confirmed, through recent media reports, that the telco would be launching its own VoIP services next month. Etisalat launched its enterprise VoIP solution in March this year, calling it the "first phase" of its overall strategy for VoIP services in the country.

Pasha admits he is presently engaged in talks with a 'few' operators in the region, but asserts that Skype is not bound by the TRA's stance as it is a software firm and "not a telco company that falls under telecom regulations".

"Skype doesn't need to go through anyone or anything....in different regions we work through partners and develop bundle products that work well for users in that country or region. So we work with partners to bring better value to users. For example, where we use Skype to call normal numbers, we can work with telco companies and hand over the internet traffic we generate to them. That telco has all the licences and whatever they need to do the job," Pasha explained. "We work very well with telco companies and we can make their business grow."

Pasha adds that Skype, once offered in collaboration with a regional telco, would only make the service more attractive to users.

"Our strategy for partnering with companies is really to make sure that our offer becomes even better, not that it becomes less better, for users," he stated. "We want to make sure that whatever offer we bring to the users in this region with potential partners really does take into account the benefit to the user, and that takes a little bit longer than somewhere in Europe for example."

Skype yesterday announced it was opening its representative office for the Middle East and Africa region in Manama, Bahrain, stating the location choice was made because of the kingdom's 'liberal and advanced' ICT infrastructure and policies, skilled workforce, and strategic geographical position.

"We should have an address within the next one or two weeks. We're negotiating rates at the moment," stated Pasha, adding that their Manama office would serve as their "eyes and ears in the region".