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Free calls banned in free zones

VoIP telephone services such as Skype are to be blocked in Dubai free zones from the end of this month.

The telcoms provider that supplies internet services to users based in Dubai’s Free Zone and Emaar residential buildings, DIC Telecom, will block voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone calls from the end of this month.

VoIP services - such as those operated by Skype - allow users to make free calls to other users over the internet, and very cheap local and international calls to landlines and mobiles.

Such services are banned elsewhere in the UAE, but not in free zones - such as Internet City - which have different rules on web use. The UAE's state telecoms operator Etisalat and newcomer du are both thought to be considering launching VoIP services.

The move, briefly outlined in an SMS message to customers yesterday, is being made in order to comply with the UAE regulator’s instructions.

The full text of the SMS sent reads: “As per TRA instructions, starting Jan 07 we will prevent the ability to make PC to phone internet VoIP calls. For queries, call Customer Care on 04 390 5555.”

A customer service representative from the company said that this block will cover all forms of internet-to-phone voice calling, meaning consumer VoIP services such as Skype will no longer function properly anywhere in Dubai (Etisalat having blocked such services several months ago).

DIC Telecom’s owner, EITC (which operates under the brand name 'du'), provided Windows Middle East with the following statement today:

"Following specific instructions, du has selectively blocked VoIP calls on the du Broadband Internet Services. More specifically, VoIP calls made from the UAE using du Broadband Internet to a PSTN or mobile phones are blocked."

The statement continued, "Other VoIP calls such as those from a Personal Computer (PC) to another PC worldwide are not blocked. Calls could also be received from overseas Internet users; however, this service could vary depending on other countries’ VoIP policies."

EITC was unwilling to comment on whether it will offer its own consumer VoIP solution once its internet services are up and running.

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