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Sun 9 Jun 2013 12:18 PM

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Viber boss vows to restore Saudi service

Free communications app was last week banned by Gulf kingdom’s telco watchdog

Viber boss vows to restore Saudi service

The head of Viber, a web-based communications application that was last week banned in Saudi Arabia, has vowed to get the service up-and-running in the kingdom once again.

The Gulf country’s Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) on Wednesday said that Viber had been outlawed for failing to comply with telecoms regulations.

The service allows subscribers to make free phone calls, send instant messages and share files, but it seen as difficult for governments to monitor, while also eroding margins of state-backed operators.

“We will not rest until the service has been restored in Saudi Arabia,” Viber’s CEO Talmon Marco told Arab News. “We are developing technology that will circumvent this block. It will be rolled out in phases. We hope to have the first step in a couple of weeks.”

Marco added that the company had not been given prior warning of the ban and that the kingdom’s telecoms operators had been seeking access to Viber’s network.

“The CITC did not communicate directly with us, but some of the mobile operators in Saudi Arabia were trying to obtain additional data about the inner workings of the Viber network,” he added.

“We believe their objective was to try and find ways to obtain the contents of messages and calls on Viber. We did not provide this information, even though a better understanding of the Viber network wouldn’t have helped them.”

The CITC also warned that it would take “appropriate action” against makers of communications applications such as Skype and WhatsApp if they failed to comply with Saudi Arabia’s regulatory requirements on telecommunications.

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Hussain Fahmy 6 years ago

Free speech is bad business for ISP revenue. However revenue shift to data is inevitable. Block/Ban will not have any effect as the Tech Savvy will find ways to beat the system. Telecom authorities should embrace realities and open up to free speech for long term profitability.

mumeen 6 years ago

If private companies offer free telephones, why should Govts be so greedy to sqeeze money from local/expat population on expensive telecom services? Like electricity and water are almost free, can't telecom services also be made almost free? Like free air, water and electricity, tele-communications may also be made free by Govts and encourage private corporations who are offering same with incentives.

PPM 6 years ago

Not sure this has anything to do with profit. In all these cases it appears to be the government's desire to listen to every conversation and read every text that is driving the bans.

Thoughtful 6 years ago

As history would teach us, Banning only increases awareness and ultimately is a solution for nothing!

Rhina Agsalda 6 years ago

This Viber Marco is not even the richest man in the world that he can give free communication. So how did he absorbed the telecom infrastructure hosting recurrent fees. You need a lot of server to host communication, data centers, employees, internet connectivity to power up your Voip business etc.. And why are they sharing their customer's info to Amazon Inc. although claimed not selling them. Maybe any customers purchased a commodity in their side contract 3rd party company partners that they are sharing their customers data base they have commissions. I think this is more like a case of deceptive practice of business like tax evasion masking themselves as free communication. If Viber doesnt have any ulterior motives they dont have to data mine their unsuspecting cash cow customers. There's no such thing as VoIP deployment without reccurent fees its normal to all conventional companies to have maintenance cost. its not cheap to use Viber you need expensive internet to make it work.