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, Dr 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.
Al Mulla questioned how Dubai can turn into a smart city with this ‘monopolistic mentality'.
VoIP services have been blocked for many years by Etisalat and du, who said that the free services 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, adding that "any unauthorized applications or services that are providing VoIP calling services are not supported in UAE."
The blocking of services caused regular social media complaints by UAE residents. Etisalat has launched a calling plan which allows customers to use alternative 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 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.