By Andy Sambidge
Web phone call firm to set up Mideast HQ despite ban in neighbouring countries.
Web-enabled phone call service Skype confirmed on Monday that it was to set up its Middle East headquarters in Bahrain, despite the service being banned in neighbouring countries.
At a joint press conference with the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), Skype said Bahrain’s liberal and advanced ICT infrastructure and policies and its geographic position providing unparalleled access to the Gulf’s trillion dollar market were key reasons for establishing a regional representative office in the kingdom.
Skype, which allows users to make free voice and video calls through the internet, has been available to consumers in Bahrain for the past two-and-a-half years. It remains blocked in some other Gulf countries, like Oman and the UAE.
Skype’s CEO Josh Silverman said in a statement: “Bahrain provides one of the most energetic environments to support and encourage innovation – with a talented local workforce, and forward thinking economic development strategies that help support business and broaden regional presence.”
He added: “In addition, as a Gateway to the Gulf, Bahrain is the ideal location from which to support our global strategy of making Skype available to as many people as possible wherever they happen to be. The Middle East and Africa has a young, tech savvy population and we believe that Bahrain will play a central role in making Skype even more popular in the region."
The World Economic Forum Global Information Technology Report 2009-2010 ranked Bahrain in the top 30 economies, a climb of eight places putting the Kingdom 29 out of 133 economies worldwide.
Bahrain was also ranked first in the Middle East and 13th out of 192 countries worldwide in the 2010 United Nations Global e-Government Readiness Survey.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa, chief executive of the EDB, said: "We are delighted that Skype has decided to set up its regional representative office in Bahrain. It is a tremendously innovative company and their decision to move here reflects the positive impact resulting from the economic reforms being driven forward by the EDB in Bahrain."
I've worked as a telecom consultant for major telecom providers in the US, Canada and Australia. I hope this is looked at as a major loss for the UAE and I hope people with authority here take action fast. The UAE has had open and forward looking policies around trade, finance, logistics and real estate. This has allowed it to become one of the premier global players (or at least on the path to a global player) in each of these areas. Unfortunately, they seem to have completely missed the boat on enabling perhaps the most important sector of the future - the knowledge economy. Rather than treating the internet (and along with it communications) as an enabler for citizens, residents and businesses in the UAE to compete globally, its being treated as revenue source. Off the top of my head: - High basic access fees for residential and business services. Its not enough to say you have a fibre optic network when the rates are so high and speeds so low. Its like saying you have built the autobahn and are allowing cars on it for $1000 a month at a max speed of 20km/hr. - High VPN service costs for business - Reports mention 40 times the rate of other competitive countries. If I wanted to be sensationalist, I would say 4000% higher ;) - Arbitrary site blocking - E.g. - Does anyone know why flickr is blocked? I've been to quote a few sites that have online courses with pictures hosted on flickr. Of course, the online course is unusable. - Lack of access to voip communication services, specifically pstn termination - Lack of competition. We have two carrier - but why is it that where I go, I can only order internet services from one of the carriers - Lack of incentives for Tech build out. Tax free is great. Free zones are nice. But where are the local next generation data centres? Where is the competitive pricing for these? Why our even UAE sites (maktoob etc) hosted outside he country? Just some of the few issues off the top of my head. I hope they see the problem before the growing hill of a problem becomes a mountain to climb. p.s. (sorry about the weak analogies) Cheers, Skulebob
Sorry about the rushed comment. I myself dont know what "I hope they see the problem before the growing hill of a problem becomes a mountain to climb." means.. Lol
Fantastic news... and not surprised Bahrain will be the hosting head quarter.. they always step up to the challenge. WE are also looking to take our business to Bahrain and will definately look forward to use Skype services soon. UAE... needs to step uP!!
Only access to the Skype home site, for downloading the Skype software, is blocked in some countries. If you already have the Skype software installed on your pc / laptop you can use Skype anywhere. Because it is a peer to peer internet connection it is not possible to block the calls, any more than a country can stop you calling any other country on your mobile phone.
"Business friendly Bahrain" thats their moto and clearly they are happy to snare the business from the obvious first choice being Dubai....snooze you loose at the rate the population is declining here more companies are looking at alternatives in the region...Dubai had a great opportunity to be the sole hub here but has blown it with greed in some many ways...just one more example
For 3+ years I have used Skype into UAE with someone who has downloaded it in UAE. It cannot be blocked, even though the Authorities/Etisalat might wish to have the missed revenue. The quality of the calls these days is very good-only problem is when someone hauls up an anchor off Egypt and fouls up all the Internet connections.
The high tariff plans of the Gulf telecommunication companies are the main reason for customers to switching to the Voip calls. And the Skype is very user friendly. It is also possible to send files and photos with Skype, which allows users to make free voice and video calls through the internet. And it is FREE. Only you have to pay them to call to land and mobile numbers and the charges are also very low.
I must enlighten the readers with the FACTS. Skype-to-Skype calls are not blocked but Skype-to-phone calls are. Having said that, I've also found that Skype-to-phone calls work from my office LAN but not from home. Perhaps it has something to do with our proxy server configuration (???). I don't know. But those are the FACTS.
I have been doing SKYPE to phones anywhere in the woirld for 10 years in Kuwait. What a savings ! What a great service !