UAE could soon lift the ban on WhatsApp calls
Priya Wadhwa
10x Industry

UAE could soon lift the ban on WhatsApp calls

Revealed by Mohamed Al Kuwaiti of the UAE’s National Electronic Security Authority.

Free calls over the internet are popular across the world. When WhatsApp revealed their voice and video call service, people rejoiced the world over, using Wi-Fi and preferring the service over Skype — as long as their internet connection supported it. But in the UAE, the calls have been banned since shortly after they were launched. Reasons cited for this ban are majorly those related to encryption and the UAE’s “regulatory framework”.

Now, in an interview with CNBC’s Capital Connection, Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, executive director of the UAE’s National Electronic Security Authority, has revealed that they have seen greater collaboration with the Facebook-owned company and might soon lift the ban on calls.

“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. 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.”
Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, executive director of the UAE’s National Electronic Security Authority,

Last year, there were reports about the ban on video and audio calls on Skype and Facetime being lifted. However, the bans still exist. While Skype’s chat feature is legally allowed in the UAE, Apple devices used in the country do not yet have Facetime. It has been reported that some residents use VPNs to use these services, which are also officially banned in the country.

It has been a long time since Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, such as those offered by Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp, have been available. However, answering to the market demands for free calls over the internet, there are certain providers, such as Botim, C’Me and HiU Messenger, as well as Yzer, have been been allowed to offer voice and video calls in the UAE.

In 2017, WhatsApp calls were made legal in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to "reduce operational costs and spur digital entrepreneurship". Other Gulf nations have also been easing their stance towards VoIP providers over the past few years.

With Expo 2020 being held in Dubai next year, the government is launching a number of services to ease doing business in the country as well as attract talent. Just this year, 100% foreign ownership has been legalised, hundreds of government fees have been reduced or eradicated, and there have been major changes in the wider legal infrastructure. In light of these, there is a good chance that the ban on WhatsApp calls will be lifted. We are looking forward to the day we can report on that good news for everyone in the UAE.