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Microsoft banks on ‘excellent ties’ to open Skype

Company says VoIP service offers benefits users all over the world

Gulf News

Dubai: Local telecom providers are remaining tight-lipped even as local internet and smartphone users are still able to access their Skype connections.

UAE residents have been saying that Skype, the world’s largest Internet-based phone service, has been unblocked since the weekend after being blocked by local telecoms for years; however, questions still remain about which parts of Skype are available. Gulf News was able to access the Skype website and succeeded in making a mobile-to-mobile call to a person overseas. Computer-to-computers calls were also successful. However, our reporters were not able to successfully make mobile-to-mobile or mobile-to-landline calls inside the UAE.

Du told Gulf News in a statement that the situation with reference to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) topic remains unchanged.

“That has not stopped us from offering unique VoIP solutions to our customers,” the statement said. “We are taking into consideration the growing customer interest in the VoIP area and are working on a few solutions for the UAE market.”

Etisalat did not respond to Gulf News queries.

“The only reason I think Skype has opened up in the UAE is because of Microsoft,” said Hamza Saleem, senior research analyst at IDC. “Microsoft has been trying for a long time to open it in the UAE and has good relations with governments. The US company is leveraging on its excellent ties to open Skype in the UAE.”

He said the directions had been given by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority before and it was up to the telecom operators when they wanted to open Skype.

Microsoft, which owns Skype, has recently been urging its users to switch to Skype as soon as possible, since it is ending its Windows Live Messenger in certain parts of the world on April 8.

Du is more open to VoIP and they are the “first to open up the VoIP market, but etisalat is more stringent,” Saleem said.

Skype is open in the Du network and works very well. “We, as a company, use Skype to communicate with our international offices,” Du said.

According to an industry expert, opening Skype is not a big issue as many users have been accessing Skype in the UAE for a very long time. One telecom operator in Oman even formed an alliance with WhatsApp when they started losing SMS revenues.

“We’re passionate about the benefit that Skype offers to our users around the world, facilitating communications and enabling collaboration,” Microsoft said in a statement to Gulf News. “We work actively to promote responsible government policies around the world that enable innovation and the many benefits that internet innovations, including Skype, can deliver.”

Skype rates are much lower than the telecom operators rates in the UAE, but Saleem said: “I don’t think there will be a massive decrease in telecom operators’ revenues by opening up Skype.”

Du launched a pre-paid calling card — Hello! — in October 2010 while etisalat launched its VoIP card this year.