The UAE may lift the WhatsApp ban soon, a senior cybersecurity official said on November 6th, 2019. The executive director of UAE’s National Electronic Security Authority, Mohamed Al Kuwaiti, said in an interview that UAE is collaborating with Facebook.
“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.”Mohamed Al Kuwaiti
The country’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) limits the use of free to use services such as Face Time, Discord, and Skype. TRA has banned all VoIP apps to increase the use of licensed services, which bring profit to government-owned telecommunication companies. In the past, the reason for the ban was “difficulty in monitoring free VoIP services” and security reasons.
Saudi Arabia lifted its VoIP ban in September 2017. Now, UAE is one of the few countries remaining in the Gulf region where VoIP apps are still blocked.
Last year, news articles said that the TRA is in talks with US firms Microsoft and Apple to lift the ban on Skype and Face Time.
Alternatives to WhatsApp and Skype
UAE residents use VoIP apps that local telecommunications companies created. For example, BOTIM, Yzer, C’ME, and HiU Messenger. These apps are all paid-for VoIP services, unlike the free to use services. In other words, residents pay an excessive amount of money to make international calls. A call from Abu Dhabi to Canada can get quite expensive.
When will the WhatsApp Ban lift?
“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
Al Dar University College’s lecturer Mohammed al-Feki predicted that the WhatsApp ban might lift before Expo 2020. The event will start on October 20, 2020, and Dubai is the host. The ban lift will play a major role in opening the way for investments in the telecommunications sector of Dubai.
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Javeria Qureshi is a Content Writer and Web Developer at Codematics Inc. In her free time, you can find her watching Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, reading books or drinking chai. Search for her articles under the hashtag #JQArticle on Twitter or LinkedIn.