Dubai: People in the UAE can now make mobile-to-mobile video calls as long as they have a Samsung smartphone running on Android platform and are on etisalat’s network.
However, the video calls only work with certain Samsung phones and with certain numbers.
The feature is not VoIP (Voice over internet Protocol) and it is a normal calling feature and works without WiFi or data package.
Gulf News staff were able to make video calls on Samsung Android phones but were unable to make calls on other smartphones and operating systems like Windows, Apple and BlackBerry. It worked well with international calls, too -- and from etisalat to du mobile but not vice versa.
Even though there is a lag, it worked fine and both the audio and video is clear. It is not sure when the video calling service had started.
The video calling feature works with Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Note 4, Note 2, Galaxy S5, S6, Galaxy S Duos and Galaxy Grand, so far.
The normal Etisalat Wasel prepaid calling rate is 0.6 fils per second locally while the video calling rate is 60 fils per minute.
Etisalat is charging the same rate for video calling service without WiFi or 3G or a data connection compared to its official 3G video calling service, known as 3.5G Video Call.
The Samsung video call service works without WiFi or 3G data package and through the normal telephony feature.
The technology that allows users to make video calls on a 3G network without a data package isn’t new, and had been available for over a decade. So-called “carrier supported video calls” only require a smartphone with 3G video technology and a network that allows such calls.
Samsung appears to be the only smartphone currently using this technology. It is unclear how long etisalat has been allowing such video calls, and Etisalat could not confirm to Gulf News if there had been any recent changes to its 3G network. In some countries, including the US, networks do not allow carrier supported video calls.
Prepaid calling rate
Du also offers video calling facility through 3G data package.
Attempts by Gulf News staff to make video calls using Du’s 3G network usually failed, although some did go through. Du does use etisalat’s 3G infrastructure in some areas.
When contacted, etisalat and Samsung was not in a position to answer Gulf News’ queries and etisalat were not sure how, why and how much the rate is.
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the UAE has blocked all the VoIP (Voice over internet Protocol) facilities officially but unofficially there are many third-party apps available on the apps stores to make video calls and many are using these facilities in the UAE.
It is not clear whether the video-calling feature falls under the TRA ban.
The recently launched WhatsApp’s free VoIP calls were instantaneously blocked by both the telecom operators, along with Skype, BBM and Viber. Sukhdev Singh, associate vice-president at market research and analysis services provider AMRB, told Gulf News, that du is stricter in blocking the VoIP calls than etisalat.
“VoIP calls have been eating into telcos’ profit for the past couple of years and they [telcos] are finding other ways to boost revenues as mobile is the way ‘going forward’ for the operators,” he said.
The TRA has issued a statement recently clarifying the policy about use of VoIP in the UAE.
“VoIP services are still a prerogative of the licensed providers who reserve the right to provide such services through their networks. Companies wishing to offer such services must coordinate with the licensed telecom providers in the UAE,” the TRA said