Four companies to get VoIP in the UAE

Third party services such as Skype will be allowed to enter into partnerships as TRA changes VoIP policy

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    Etisalat has said it is ready to install, manage and maintain the first phase of its strategy to offer VoIP-baImage Credit: Oliver Clarke/Gulf News
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    People use the net to phone at an internet Cafe in Deira. Image Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News
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    VoIP will only be allowed for four companies: Etisalat, du, Yahsat and ThurayaImage Credit: Oliver Clarke/ Gulf News
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    Internet and cell phone users at Dubai mall. Dubai Mall has free wireless internet for shoppers wishing to be Image Credit: Oliver Clarke/Gulf News
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    du has reported a disruption in internet services but says it's working quickly to restore themImage Credit: Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: A government regulator Monday said that only four licensed UAE telecom operators had permission to offer voice over internet protocol services (VoIP) in the country.

Mohammad Geyath, executive director of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), told reporters yesterday at a press conference that there would be no addition to the number of players offering VoIP services.

Click here to find out VoIP functionality (pdf)

He added that there would be no changes to government policy regarding this issue.

"When we announced our VoIP policy [in 2006], we did not look at VoIP outside the framework that was existing," Geyath said.

"We certainly will not do that now or in the future."

TRA has been blocking various VoIP service providers.

Geyath said TRA considers VoIP a service which has to be licensed and regulated. He said that was the reason the TRA allowed telecom operators to block access to service providers such as Skype.

"For the time being, we don't have licensing for those companies [international VoIP service providers not licensed by the TRA], but they are more than welcome to come in and establish partnerships with local companies."

Etisalat rollout

Etisalat yesterday said it was ready to instal, manage and maintain the telephone networks of businesses including VoIP services, in what it said was "the first phase of its overall strategy to offer VoIP-based services."

The company's rival, du, and satellite service providers Yahsat and Thuraya have yet to announce their VoIP plans.

VoIP telephony allows users to make phone and video calls and send text messages to mobiles and land-lines using the internet for free or at costs well below those charged by traditional network operators.

The trade-off for the discounted or free services includes lower connection quality and less security, although companies such as Skype have won consumer praise in the West for offering high quality voice calls for as little as $0.02 (Dh0.07) per minute.

The UAE first introduced VoIP regulation in 2006, banning the use of the service except for national calls, thereby allowing du and etisalat to route their mobile and landline calls over the internet.

Etisalat has since worked to make the conversion while du has operated from its beginning on an all-IP network.

In December, the regulator said it would allow the two companies to offer VoIP services and exempted academic institutions and government departments from the ban on using non-licensed VoIP services.

Despite the framing of VoIP as a regulatory and consumer protection issue by regulators, analysts say Gulf Cooperation Council countries ban the use of VoIP to protect their telecom operators as expatriates make up significant portions of their respective populations.

Sulaiman Aboul Hosn, a telecom analyst for Prime Emirates, said VoIP deregulation in UAE would be slow.

"I think it will be done in a controlled fashion so as not to destroy such revenue streams of etisalat and du," Aboul Hosn said.

"Around 75 per cent of the UAE's population is made up of expatriates and a significant portion of telecom revenues is derived from international calls."

Last week, Skype chief executive officer called the UAE's policy of banning his company's services to locals "short-sighted" but said both parties are negotiating a possible partnership to provide VoIP services through local operators.


  • Job

    16-Mar-2010 10:29

    skype is all we are waiting. we need 2 talk 2 our family members at affordable costs. UAE government sholuld unblock it ASAP...this is good news!

  • Ubayyu.CN

    16-Mar-2010 08:44

    it is good new for all expatriates living in UAE to call their beloved family members and friends in their home town for a cheaper rate. I believe TRA will allow the service providers to provide competitive service

  • Asim

    16-Mar-2010 08:02

    Its quite disappointing to see TRA taking a U Turn after 4 years waiting. This is denying consumers the choice to choose an affordable media for communication that is able to the rest of the world. The excuse of providing better quality through existing operators does not hold ground that choice should have been left for consumers.

  • Bilal Hameed

    16-Mar-2010 07:03

    This should have been done long time ago, for the past decade least I have noticed the boom in net-cafes selling voip cards & the network is so strong, if one service gets banned, another pops up in not time, it has costed the telecom sector millions of dirhams in damages every year.By legallising the use of voip in UAE, not only people will feel at ease, the telecom sector will also be able to recover the chunk of money which it was losing over the years.

  • Furqan

    15-Mar-2010 22:45

    It is nice to see the doors are opening for VoIP's in UAE atleast before it is too late, by realizing that technology advances to give relief for humanity. USA relaizes in time & very surprisingly one of the smallest country Bangladesh already started in 2003. InshaAllah things will work good for all with betterment for society & this Global world.

  • Ahmad

    15-Mar-2010 21:42

    whats the use for giving licence to VOIP right at this moment.its too late.and i dont think that this services will work in UAE.there are huge number of unauthorised VOIP pc and mobile dilaer available in the this is just going to be good for nothing.

  • Ala'a

    15-Mar-2010 19:16

    i think this is is not true because no body heard that althuraya and yahsat or du or etisalat have any voip services the first two firms specilized in satellite telephony and the other local is in gsm services why they dont allow the big companies to be avaliable?

  • Dheeraj Ramakrishnan

    15-Mar-2010 18:56

    It's a great news for everybody in the UAE. Kudos to TRA and both the telecome operators in the country.

  • Sudhir Vardhan

    15-Mar-2010 18:37

    This is a great news for all the expat living in Dubai. The International Call rates in UAE were high and was almost prohibitive. Now the international Calls will be much cheaper. After the entry of Du , there has been competetion leading to the fall in the Call rates. Local Call should still be reduced so that more and more people use mobile. Now that VOIP has been legalised the service provider should ensure very competetive rates so as to earn more revenue

  • Hamza

    15-Mar-2010 16:22

    I could image the license fees to be quite high.The license fee could end up accumulating to the year loss from international call from Du or Etisalat would bare. What would the license fee cost? Would Skype be able to afford it?

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