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Skype usage could carry jail term, AED1m fine: TRA

Regulator clarifies: unblocked site does not mean VoIP is legal

Skype usage could carry jail term, AED1m fine: TRA
Use of Skype could mean jail time and a hefty fine, according to the TRA.

Failure to obtain proper authorisation prior to using some Skype services could draw a two-year jail term and a fine of up to AED1m, Arabic daily Emarat Al Youm reported today.

Despite the recent unblocking of the Skype download by UAE telecom operators, Majid Al Masmar, acting director general of the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) said services such as placing phone calls were still governed by licensing legislation and such activities undertaken without the proper authorisation of the TRA would carry fines between AED50,000 and AED1m, as per Article 71 of the Telecommunications Act.

Amid confusion in March and April over the apparent unblocking of the VoIP service, the TRA said there was no regulatory barrier to Etisalat or du licensing VoIP services, but neither telco had previously shown willingness to do so. Al Masmar's recent comments expanded on this point, as he stressed that the unblocking of the Skype website by operators did not amount to permission for end users to consume its services. Such permission could only be given by the operators after having applied for and obtained the appropriate licences from the TRA.

"There is a big difference for subscribers when they get online Skype services formally through the two licensed operators and when they illegally download it via the site, as is currently done by a large number of people," said Al Masmar.

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