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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

UAE users complain of disruptions to Skype

Telecoms providers such as Etisalat are promoting their own voice over internet apps

In restricting the use of Voice over Internet Protocol services, the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority is following the example of a number of other countries. studioEAST / Getty Images
In restricting the use of Voice over Internet Protocol services, the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority is following the example of a number of other countries. studioEAST / Getty Images

UAE-based users of Skype, the Microsoft-owned phone and video service, are complaining about disruptions to service amid reports the application had been blocked by the telecoms regulator.

Some users of the voice over internet protocol (VoIP) app complained on Twitter that service had been disrupted while others followed up on recent statements by telecoms provider Etisalat that Skype "had been blocked" in the UAE.

"The access to the Skype App is blocked since it is providing unlicensed voice over internet protocol (VoIP) service, which falls under the classification of prohibited contents as per the United Arab Emirates' Regulatory Framework," the Etisalat Twitter account responded to one complaint.

Other users in the UAE said there was disruption to their service.

Skype advised several UAE-based users with similar complaints that the matter was "out of its hands" and urged them to contact their service providers instead.

The UAE's federal regulator Telecommunications Regulatory Authority referred to its 2015 clarification on VoIP service when asked about its position on Skype.

"Voice over internet protocol are considered part of the UAE’s regulated activities. The TRA has granted licensed operators the eligibility to provide such services across their networks. Companies wishing to provide such services should co-ordinate with the UAE’s licensed service providers in this regard," the statement read.

Du, the other telecoms provider in the UAE, told The National that "any unauthorised applications or services providing VoIP calling services were not supported in the UAE" and referred users to its own voice-calling app.

The conflicting reports over the use of voice messaging apps such as Skype follows recent campaigns by Etisalat to promote its own VoIP apps, which, as in the case with du, are available for a monthly fee.

Skype, which has 70 million users worldwide, was reported to have been inaccessible to users in the UAE in June, much to the frustration of expatriates who use the free app to make calls to relatives and friends overseas. Skype had then urged users to request providers to unblock the service.

The UAE has been wary of allowing access to VoIP services over security concerns. WhatsApp’s call feature has been blocked since it was launched last November, as have other internet calling services from sites such as Viber, Snapchat and Facebook.

The popular in-game voice chat app Discord has also been blocked. None of the call functions are licensed in the UAE.