Sunday, May 15, 2005

UAE ban on VoIP - Skype News
Skype is the latest in a line of VoIP sites to be blocked in the UAE as those of other VoIP specialists such as Net2Phone have been disallowed for some time.

State-owned Etisalat - the country’s only fixed line operator –claims it did not ban Skype, but that the decision was made instead by the Dubai government.

“It’s illegal to use voice over IP in the UAE and it is left to the regulatory authorities to allow or disallow such things,” Ahmed Bin Ali, public relations manager at Etisalat, told ITP Business. However, Bin Ali went on to admit that he didn’t know why a technology that is legal across most of the world had been banned in the UAE. “I don’t have the answer. Up ‘til now the technology itself has not been standardised,” he added.

Coincidentally, the Skype block comes as Etisalat itself prepares to launch its own VoIP service later this year. However, when quizzed on whether Etisalat might have been using its UAE government connections to ban VoIP competitors in advance, Bin Ali claimed this wasn’t the case. “That’s not a fair [accusation],” he said. “It (Skype) has been blocked because it is illegal to operate.”
While I'm not sure of the quality of this news source, Gulf News is not in question. Here's what Gulf News printed yesterday:

GN: Any plans to allow voice over Internet telephony (VOIP)?
MAG: This is not allowed. We have instructed Etisalat to block websites that allow Internet telephony. There is a difference between VOIP and Internet telephony.

TRA is studying and thinking about this issue but for now VOIP is not allowed and Internet telephony is definitely not allowed. Etisalat is cooperating with TRA.
About MAG: "The director-general of the UAE Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA), Mohammad Al Ganem, was first with Etisalat where he held several positions including senior manager (product management)."

The Economist En Su Laberinto isn't happy.

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