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Fri 18 Jun 2010 09:43 AM

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Thousands using 'illegal' Skype on mobile in UAE - paper

Free-calling software is freely available on Apple’s iTunes store in the UAE.

Thousands using 'illegal' Skype on mobile in UAE - paper
SKYPE BAN: The UAE is one of only four countries that do not allow Skype software to be downloaded. (Getty Images)

Thousands of Apple iPhone users in the UAE are flouting the country’s law by using the popular free-calling software Skype, according to a report.

According to the Abu Dhabi-based The National daily, many iPhone users are breaking the law as the country’s telecoms regulator has banned Skype for Apple’s hand-held devices.

Though the Skype application is freely available on Apple’s iTunes store in the UAE and will work on iPhones connected to Etisalat or du services, the ban issued in 2006 by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) still remains in place, The National said,

According to the daily, the TRA has said: “If a third party application, such as Skype, is available for download from iTunes or any other website, it does not mean that it’s legal to use. Furthermore, the licensees have the right to block the illegal traffic of the application.”

Rouzbeh Pasha, the head of Skype for the Middle East and Africa, told The National that the only way the iPhone application would not be available in the UAE was if the regulator said no one in the country could have access to the iTunes store.

“As long as the App Store is available, Skype and other applications will be there as well,” Mr Pasha said. “This is part of the [Skype’s] ecosystem. Soon you’ll have Panasonic and Sony television sets that will have Skype built in.”

The UAE is one of only four countries that do not allow Skype software to be downloaded and block access to the company’s website. North Korea, Oman and Kuwait are the others, according to The National.

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Tayoto 10 years ago

...the exact wording of what is banned in regards to Skype/VOIP? I remember reading the TRA paper and it clearly said that PC to Phone line calls that compete with real phone companies are banned but that PC to PC calls that are FREE are not banned. As well as google talk, yahoo voice chat, msn voice chat, etc. As soon as you call a phone number and not a PC it's illegal. Can anyone confirm that? Thanks.

Tayoto 10 years ago

The 2009 Version is quite clear on limiting ALL ip transmitted voice data, which actually would include nearly all instant messengers as they all feature voice data, not only skype. And by the way: Skype.com is not blocked on du internet lines at all.

Ataa 10 years ago

Google Talk, Yahoo!, Skype and other voice chat clients and pc-to-pc calling softwares are NOT illegal. only pc-to-phone and voip to pstn is illegal.

Ex-Expat 10 years ago

I used Skype all the time in the UAE when I was there and everybody I knew did so. And if there was some blocking going on, we used a tunnel to Europe and used Skype through a remote server. Remember: In this connected world the narrow minded people who want to use power to secure the money for state monopolies have a hard time, hahaha.... They will outdate themselves sooner or later.

R 10 years ago

I would like to remind the reporter - that technology has advanced to such an extent that the mobile phones have converged to become computers. In this case, the skype communication must be treated as a PC to PC call and hence there is no question of violating any law. If this is illegal - then they must also ban all PC to PC communication and go back to dark ages

nigel 10 years ago

skype to pstn is banned, this means you may not use skype to place a call to any landline or mobile number. voip is used extensively in UAE with some of the biggest implementations within public sector (local and federal govt). TRA are attempting to prevent the use of VOIP to PSTN gateways which present a very credible risk to the margins of the two operators, in effect mostly owned by govt (50% dividend). I don't know of anyone here in uae that does _not_ have skype installed and used regularly for skype to skype video calls with family back home.

Syam 10 years ago

What a joke? Joke of the 21st century. I think, these people are going back to the stone ages.

sleeinabudhabi 10 years ago

I suggest, Etisalat bans internet for the whole country, so that no one can use msn. yahoo, google talk, skype. No more internet in UAE! and therefore nothing is illegal anymore

GMR 10 years ago

Why do you need to block skype, this nothing but these govt held companies just want to more money and monopolise the busisness. These companies just ripping off the customers with their exorbitanat call charges . This is a free world,the more you restrict the more people will try to use illegal methods. Open up this is a free world.

AMERICAN IN KUWAIT 10 years ago

I have been using SKYPE in Kuwait for more than 10 years. I just cnnot upgrade my version because of MoC. SKPYE is blocked to force the TCNs to use the illegal internatinal call centers owned by the Kuwaitis.