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Cyber cafes threatened with prison

Cafes providing internet telephony face jail if they continue to offer services, Oman's regulator has warned.

Cafés providing internet telephony face jail if they continue to offer services, Oman’s regulator has warned.

The sultanate’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) is cracking down on the offering of basic voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services by cyber cafés, which it said are doing so illegally.

“The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority noticed lately that a number of internet cyber cafés offer basic voice service through the internet provided by foreign companies that are not licensed to provide telecom services in the Sultanate,” the TRA said in a statement last week.

This is a violation of the Telecommunications Regulatory Act issued by Royal Decree No. 30/2002, the TRA said, which stipulates that no person is permitted to establish or operate a telecommunications system nor provide telecommunications services unless it has obtained a licence to do so.

Omantel is the only provider licensed to offer voice services in the sultanate.

Penalties for offenders include up to two years in jail and fines of up to US$123,000, the TRA said.

The ban is likely to most heavily hit expatriate workers from the Indian sub-continent — a large number of who work in the country on low salaries.

While VoIP has enjoyed rapid growth in recent years, thanks in part to the success of VoIP providers such as Skype, its use is still heavily proscribed in the Middle East.

Regulators are reluctant to permit the use of VoIP, in order to protect the incumbent operators.

VoiP is still not permitted in the UAE, despite recent reports the UAE regulatory authority was considering lifting the ban.

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