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Wed 13 Apr 2016 12:16 PM

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Whatsapp, Snapchat call bans "embarrassing" for UAE, says FNC member

Telecommunications Regulatory Authority insists ban is for security reasons

Whatsapp, Snapchat call bans "embarrassing" for UAE, says FNC member
(Getty Images)

The UAE’s ban on voice calls via apps such as Snapchat and Whatsapp is an “international embarrassment”, the youngest member of the Federal National Council (FNC) has reportedly claimed.

Thirty-two-year-old Saeed Al Remeithi on Tuesday spoke out against current restrictions on so-called voice over internet protocol (VOIP) services and urged the UAE to amend its rules to make them publicly available.

At present, such functions are restricted to the two licensed telecoms providers, Du and Etisalat.

According to a report in The National, Al Remeithi said: “Any person who uses any app or video pays Etisalat a lot of money, and if we calculate what is downloaded from the web, or any call, it is a lot.

“So, the issue of limiting technologies is very important.

“[Yet] users are limited in the UAE, and the public are calling for these services.”

During the FNC session, Al Remeithi also reminded council that the United Nations considers access to the internet a “human right”. “As UAE representatives we are embarrassed in the international federation by this issue.”

Hamad Al Mansouri, director-general of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, argued that VOIP services had been blocked due to concerns over cybercrime and state security, and said they would continue to be blocked indefinitely.

He claimed that some other countries had also stopped these services for similar reasons.

Etisalat intends to launch 5G services next year that would include the function to make online voice calls, Al Mansouri added.