Internet telephony software Skype is still banned in the UAE, the Gulf state’s telecoms regulator has said, despite operators in the country moving to unblock use of the service.
Use of Skype, an application that provides free voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls, is prohibited under UAE law as part of a policy that critics say is intended to protect the revenues of state-backed telcos.
Etisalat, the UAE’s incumbent operator, on Monday announced on its Facebook page that it had begun allowing access to Skype’s website. The company did not give a reason for the decision.
In a statement on the UAE’s official news agency WAM, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) said that there had been no change in the law that permitted use of Skype calls.
"As to what the licensees have done in unblocking Skype's website www.skype.com in the UAE, this action does not change the position of the TRA,” the regulator said on Tuesday.
The statement added that VoIP was “considered a regulated activity” and any such services must be provided directly by either Etisalat or its smaller rival du, and not by a third party such as Skype.
"Should the service be provided through a partnership with a third party, both licensees must seek approval to provide such service after fulfilling the regulatory and technical requirements of the TRA, which has not happened in the case of Skype,” the statement added.
Although officially banned, many expats in the UAE are able to use VoIP software such as Skype via virtual private networks, which allow a user to appear as though they are accessing the web from a different country.
Etisalat did not immediately respond to Arabian Business’s emailed request for comment on the matter.