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Wed 20 Jun 2018 10:00 AM

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Telcos' 'monopolistic mentality' hindering Dubai's smart ambition - Al Mulla

Both Etisalat and du blocked VoIP services in the UAE in December 2017, though Etisalat introduced apps C'Me and BOTIM to users for prices starting at AED52.50 a month on mobile devices in January

Telcos' 'monopolistic mentality' hindering Dubai's smart ambition - Al Mulla
Dr Habib Al Mulla, founder and chairman of Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla.

Monopolistic mentalities by UAE telecom companies is getting in the way of Dubai’s road to being a smart city by 2021, according to prominent Emirati lawyer Dr Habib Al Mulla.

Responding to a tweet stating that the UAE is advanced in everything except the field of telecoms due to inflated prices and blocked internet calls, the founder and chairman of Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla said the blocking of free Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services such as Skype is a hindrance to the country’s development.

“After Etisalat blocked WhatsApp calls and Skype video [calls] and all audio and video calls, it has now also blocked all free channels and websites. How will we turn into a smart city with this monopolistic mentality!” said Al Mulla on his Twitter account in reply to a tweet by Khalifa Al Baloushi.

User Al Baloushi urged authorities to “dispose of monopolistic attitudes” by local telecom giants Etisalat and du in order to open the market to global companies.

VoIP services were blocked in the UAE in December 2017 by both Etisalat and du, who warned that the services, most of which are free of charge, did not meet the country’s licensing requirements.

In response to a December 30 Twitter post calling for Skype use to be permitted, Etisalat noted that “access to the Skype app is blocked since it is provided unlicensed Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service, which falls under the classification of prohibited contents as per the United Arab Emirates’ regulatory framework.”

Similarly, du responded to a Twitter message asking the company to “reconsider” the ban noted that “any unauthorized applications or services that are providing VoIP calling services are not supported in UAE.”

The blocking of services caused social media uproar by UAE residents, leading Etisalat to launch a new calling plan just two weeks later, which allows customers to use two voice over internet protocol (VoIP) apps C’Me and BOTIM for both iOS and Android devices.

The plans are available to Etisalat’s prepaid, postpaid and e-Life home broadband customers for a fixed rate of AED52.50 a month on mobile devices and AED105 over a computer using the eLife account.

Etisalat said C’Me and BOTIM both meet the UAE’s regulatory framework requirements to operate in the country, and said new VoIP apps may be added if they meet the requirements, though no others have been yet introduced.

The Dubai Smart Vision 2021, guided by Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, includes the launch of over 100 smart initiatives and more than 1,000 smart services by two dozen government departments and private sector partner in less than three years.

Etisalat and du have been contacted for comment. 

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