TRA says Viber not authorised to offer VoIP in UAE

UAE regulator the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) denies blocking access to over-the-top voice-over-IP (VoIP) service Viber, stating the service was never authorised for use in the market in the first place.

In a brief statement issued this morning, the TRA said only local mobile operators du and Etisalat are authorised to provide VoIP services in the UAE. Referring to press reports that it has blocked Viber, the TRA said that the service was "never licensed" in the country.

"[T]he VoIP regulatory policy has only licensed "Etisalat" and "du" (The Licensees) to provide telecommunication services in the UAE, including VoIP services," the TRA's statement explains, adding: "This policy still exists and has not been amended."

At present, non-domestic VoIP services are banned in the UAE, local news outlet Emirates 247 reports. While Viber's rival Skype does have a presence in the market through a deal with du, only the company's SMS service is available. Skype's VoIP service remains encrypted, the news agency said.

du and Etisalat are expected to launch their own VoIP services by the year-end, after finalising a network sharing agreement in July, Reuters reported. du revealed in June it is also preparing to launch voice over LTE (VoLTE) and other IP-based services using Nokia Networks equipment.

The TRA's statement regarding lack of change to the current telecoms regulations are seen as a response to reports it was considering legalising Skype's VoIP service, Emirates 247 added.

Apple's FaceTime video calling service is another victim of the TRA's VoIP policy, Gulf Business reported.

The U.S. device maker topped UAE smartphone sales charts in the final quarter of 2014, accounting for 3 per cent of all shipments according to figures from the TRA.

Research company Infonetics Research in June revealed that Japanese VoIP company Line eclipsed Skype as the world's leading VoIP service provider in 2013, with around 25 per cent of the world's active users. The research company estimated the global number of OTT VoIP users to be 1.5 million at end-2013, but noted that the majority of OTT VoIP services were deployed in Asia Pacific at that point.

For more:
- view the TRA VoIP statement
- see this Emirates 247 report
- read the Gulf Business article
- see this Infonetics Research press release
- read this Reuters report

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