UAE may lift ban on WhatsApp calling ‘soon’ – cyber security official

International VoIP services including Skype and WhatsApp calls are currently blocked in the UAE



The UAE may lift its ban on WhatsApp calls soon, a senior cyber security official has said.

Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, executive director of the UAE’s National Electronic Security Authority, told CNBC that the UAE was collaborating closely with big tech platforms such as Facebook-owned WhatsApp.

“The collaboration with WhatsApp has actually increased, and in many of those (projects) we saw a very good understanding (from them) of the concept we have,” he said.

“There might be a lift of that ban for (WhatsApp) voice calls… and this is going to happen soon, this is what we know and understand from the telecommunication authority here in the UAE.”

All free international voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services including Skype and WhatsApp calls currently remain blocked in the UAE as per regulations issued by the Telecoms Regulatory Authority (TRA).

However, paid-for VoIP services such as Yzer, Botim, C’Me and HiU Messenger can be used in the country.

Read: UAE gets new video calling app as VoIP restrictions on Skype, WhatsApp continue

There were 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.

Read: UAE’s telecoms regulator in talks to lift Skype, FaceTime ban

Several senior businessmen have also urged the UAE to lift the ban.

Read: Dubai businessman Khalaf Al Habtoor urges for end to Skype ban in UAE

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 in September 2017.

The kingdom said it would allow apps that satisfy regulatory requirements to function but would monitor calls.

Read: Saudi lifts Skype, WhatsApp ban, but will censor calls