du has reported a disruption in internet services but says it's working quickly to restore them Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: The Telecom Regulation Authority (TRA) is on a sector liberalisation drive that may see the introduction of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services by etisalat and du this year.

Al Emarat Al Youm reported on Sunday that the companies plan to launch their services by July, but officials at both companies declined to confirm or deny the report. TRA said in early January it plans to unveil a new VoIP policy "soon."

"It's not an issue of allowing VoIP," TRA Director General Mohammad Al Ganem told Gulf News. "It's an issue of regulation and consumer protection."

Al Ghanim said VoIP operators have been blocked inside UAE because the mechanisms do not exist to regulate them. Consumers have no outlet to direct complaints in case of poor service or other issues, he added.

VoIP companies allow users to make phone 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.

"It's a case of having the right infrastructure to do so and du already has an all IP network and etisalat is nearly there," said Irfan Ellam, telecom analyst at Al Mal Capital. "It's a strategic choice for the business in order to maintain revenues and profitability."

What do you think of this move? Would you use it to make international calls? Is this where communication is heading?