UAE businessman Khalaf Al Habtoor has called on the country’s telecoms providers to lift a ban on internet calling services offered by Whatsapp and Skype.
The comments from the outspoken billionaire come following reports earlier this year that the country’s telecoms regulator was in talks with US technology firms Apple and Microsoft towards the potential re-enabling of FaceTime and Skype.
In a Twitter video released on Sunday, Al Habtoor, the founder and chairman of conglomerate Al Habtoor Group, noted how people across the world are able to use Whatsapp and Skype calls “except in my country” where the telecoms provider are “locking it and blocking it”.
“Therefore, I would like to request the management and the directors of these companies to release and free this system to enable everyone to enjoy [it],” he said.
VoIP apps have technically been illegal in the UAE for years but telecoms providers Etisalat and Emirates Integrated Telecommunications (Du) appeared to only take extra steps to completely block them to users at the end of last year.
This coincided with the launch of paid VoIP apps by the two companies.
Al Habtoor said the unavailability of the services went against the UAE’s broader goal of being a leader on the world stage.
“In my country, the United Arab Emirates, we aim to be number one in everything. Why we are in the back as far as communication is concerned? We have to be parallel to our requirement and our aim to be number one,” he said.
In a country like #UAE, where we aim to always be pioneers in all we do, #WhatsAppCall should not banned when it is accessible everywhere else in the world. I urge mobile carriers in the UAE to lift the ban, a service free to use in the top nations of the world. #KhalafAlHabtoor pic.twitter.com/Lzx0w24rL5
— KhalafAhmadAlHabtoor (@KhalafAlHabtoor) September 9, 2018
The UAE is one of the few countries in the Gulf region where Skype, FaceTime and other VoIP apps are still blocked after Saudi Arabia lifted its ban last September.
The kingdom said it would allow apps that satisfy regulatory requirements to function but would monitor calls.