Microsoft and Apple have urged the UAE’s telecom authorities to lift their current ban on third party voice and video calling services.
The UAE currently does not allow several app-based VoIP services – including Apple’s FaceTime and Microsoft’s Skype – to operate independently. OTT providers must form a partnership with one of the country’s licensed operators and deliver services via their networks.
However, the Emirates’ Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has now begun discussions over possible updates to this policy after both US-based firms committed to further investment in the region. Apple is opening more retail outlets in the UAE while Microsoft is setting up data centres in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The regulation is specific to third party voice and video calling services – third party messaging services are permitted if offered together with voice services from one of the country’s two licensed operators, Etisalat or Du. Both operators in fact offer tariffs that feature messaging apps Botim and C’ME as extras.
However, while major international players are forging a path towards offering their services in the Middle East, encrypted messaging app Telegram has not seen its fortunes improve. Following a high profile ban in Russia, the app has now been blocked in Iran due to national security concerns.
An Iranian court has ruled that the app had been used for the dissemination of anti-establishment propaganda and other inappropriate material. It has also been claimed that protesters have relied on the app to communicate and mobilise against the government.