By Helen Gaskell
Feature rolled out this week but quickly made unavailable to users
Mobile messaging app WhatsApp started offering free Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls earlier this week but, according to the Emirates 24/7 website, UAE telecoms provider Etisalat blocked the functionality a few hours after it became available.
According to the website, the service was blocked because VoIP services can only be offered in the UAE by licensed providers, in effect Etisalat and du.
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) issued a statement clarifying the policy about use of VoIP in the UAE in response to the news published: "VoIP services are still a prerogative of the licensed providers who reserve the right to provide such services through their networks. Companies wishing to offer such services must co-ordinate with the licensed telecom providers in the UAE."
The website's source, who is from Etisalat and chose to remain anonymous, explained that the “scrambling has been activated but may take a few days to percolate down to all UAE subscribers.”
The report claimed that some people had already managed to activate the functionality and it may still work over Wi-Fi. It also said that subscribers of du who managed to download the functionality maintain that they have had no service disruption so far, suggesting that UAE subscribers on the du platform may have the functionality for a few days more as and when the operator decides to disable the service.
Many WhatsApp users are still unaware of the new feature as WhatsApp has still not made any official announcement or confirmation regarding it, but according to online media, users need to have the latest version of the app and need to know another WhatsApp user who has already got it, they then request a VOIP call from that user and the new feature will be activated.
When contacted by ITP.net, a sister website of Arabian Business, Etisalat’s spokesperson was unavailable for comment.
Hint: simply switch to VPN (search for Seed4Me VPN) to unblocks WhatsApp voice calls.