Abu Dhabi: The UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said on Wednesday it “has no problem with having Voice over internet Protocol (VoIP)” services in the country. A spokesman said it was up to the telecommunications providers to agree with third parties that provide the service.
“TRA today has no problem with having Voice over IP (VoIP). Today the infrastructure is owned by the telecommunications provider, and when any deal is in place, we can launch the service with the telecom providers.
“Etisalat already offers C’Me, which is an app that comprises VoIP and it’s a local product … We have a framework at TRA though which any company can provide VoIP provided they can agree with the telecom providers to offer these services,” said Hamad Al Mansoori, director general of TRA.
VoIP calls can only be legally offered by licenced telecom operators in the UAE. with the two telecom providers Etisalat and du blocking features like Snapchat’s and Whatsapp’s voice calls and blocking apps like FaceTime altogether.
The ban has been in the spotlight lately after Google rolled out its video calling app called Duo, which was immediately available for download in the UAE, though many said they expected the app to be blocked soon (it’s still available so far).
Al Mansoori’s comments are the latest in a round of blame game between TRA and the telecom providers, with the latter saying they cannot provide VoIP due to TRA regulations.
Analysts have, however, pointed out that such bans — regardless of which party is issuing them — are holding the sector back from developing. They added that though telecom providers would see lower revenues from phone call and text packages, they would see stronger demand for higher data packages.
The director general’s comments came at press conference following the 20th session of the Council of Arab Minister of Communication and Information held in Abu Dhabi. Ministers from the Arab world agreed at the session to a proposal by the UAE to establish an authority that aims to invest in technology and innovation to transfer Arab countries for consumers of services to producers.
TRA did not disclose further details on the new authority, but said it will see participation from all Arab countries.
Ministers at the session also agreed that the UAE’s TRA will manage a project for the Arab League to boost the presence of internet domain names in Arabic by providing dotArab domains (in both English and Arabic letters).
TRA and the Arab League are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding soon to start working on the project in the first quarter of 2017. TRA said the UAE’s infrastructure is ready to host new domain names.
The initiative is part of a plan to make the internet more accessible and easier to use by Arab nationals who do not speak English, with a spokesman for the Arab League saying internet access is almost a basic human right now.
Having domain names in Arabic also aims to boost Arabic content on the internet and strengthen the Arab identity online, with ministers saying creating new domain names has now become an essential part of the internet of Things.
During the session, representatives at the session also discussed a proposal by the Lebanese minister of telecommunications on a policy to unify call rates for mobile phones across the Arab world, but the meeting ended without reaching an agreement on that issue.