WhatsApp app on a smartphone. Image Credit: Agency

Dubai: The UAE may soon remove the ban on WhatsApp voice calls, making it the first free Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services to be available in the country.

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) currently restricts the usage of many applications of VoIP in the UAE, such as Skype, Tango, Face time and Viber.

Botim, C’me and YzerChat are the only VoIP apps authorised in the UAE.

In an interview with CNBC, Mohammad Al Kuwaiti, executive director of the UAE’s National Electronic Security Authority, said the UAE had increased its collaborations with big tech platforms on national security initiatives, especially with the Facebook-owned WhatsApp.

“The collaboration with WhatsApp has actually increased, and in many of those [projects] we saw a very good understanding [from them] of the concept we have,” he said during the programme “Capital Connection”.

“There might be a lift of that ban for [WhatsApp] voice calls… and this is going to happen soon, this is what we know and understand from the telecommunication authority here in the UAE,” said Al Kuwaiti.

When contacted by Gulf News on Thursday, the TRA declined to comment.

Earlier this year, Gulf News reported that talks were already in place between officials from Smart Dubai and “strategic partners and the telecommunication industry” to lift the VoIP restrictions in the UAE.

Dr Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, Director General of the Smart Dubai Office, exclusively told Gulf News: “When it comes to telecommunications, we are working very closely with our strategic partners and the telecommunication industry to understand with them how we can lift these kind of restrictions to boost our economy more.”

Last year, Microsoft confirmed that it was in talks with the TRA to lift the ban on Skype. Skype is part of Microsoft Office 365 and at present, only the text-based chat feature in Skype is available for businesses.

In December 2017, Etisalat and du blocked Skype throughout the country as the app provided unlicensed VoIP services, “which falls under the classification of prohibited contents as per the United Arab Emirates' Regulatory Framework.”