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

Discussions are said to be underway following big investments by Apple and Microsoft in the UAE



The UAE’s telecoms regulator is in talks with US technology firms Apple and Microsoft towards the potential lifting of a ban on video calling apps FaceTime and Skype, according to reports.

Arabic newspaper Al Ittihad cited Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) director general Hamad Obaid Al Mansouri as confirming the talks on Sunday.

He said discussions were continuing towards providing voice over internet protocol services in light of the growing investments Apple and Microsoft are making in the UAE.

Microsoft said last month it would open its first two Middle East data centres in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Read: Microsoft to open Dubai, Abu Dhabi data centres

Apple has also expanded its UAE store footprint from Dubai’s Malls of the Emirates to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Mall and Dubai Mall.

Read: Pictures, video: Apple store Dubai Mall to offer free music, photo training sessions

The talks come following the launch of paid voice over internet protocol (VoIP) apps by the country’s two telecoms providers Etisalat and Emirates Integrated Telecommunications (Du).

Al Mansouri indicated usage of the apps, BOTIM and C’Me, was growing.

VoIP apps have technically been illegal in the UAE for years but telecoms providers appeared to only in recent months take extra steps to completely block Skype.

Apple iPhones sold inside the country generally come without FaceTime installed but handsets with the app are available to buy online.

Read: UAE Skype users complain of service disruption

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.

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

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