Residents of the Gulf states urge to end the ban on Internet calls to face Corona

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Residents of the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries are urging telecom operators to ease further restrictions on free Internet calls in the wake of the separation of the Corona Virus families and forcing people to work and study from home.

A woman walks in a semi-empty commercial complex in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Photo by Reuters.

The UAE’s telecom companies, Etisalat and Du, said they recently enabled the Microsoft Times application via a data bundle in phones, antenna and Internet access devices, as well as Blackboard, Zoom and Cloud Talk applications, but other more popular applications appear to be still blocked.

“Please listen to us,” Daniel McRevins wrote on Twitter. Unblock Skype, WhatsApp and FaceTime even if it is temporary. 80 percent of the country’s population is far from their homes. ”

“If this does not happen now while the virus is spreading to allow communication with our families, then when?” Basim Saif wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

The UAE, the Sultanate of Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia restrict applications that use Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services that provide free voice and video calls to varying degrees. Bahrain and Kuwait do not follow the same approach.

Expatriates constitute the majority of the population in many Gulf countries, especially the UAE, which is the commercial and tourist center of the region.

The UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority declined to comment on the availability of VIB. State-owned Etisalat (Du) referred Reuters’ questions to the commission.

Virgin Mobile, part of Du, did not respond to requests for comment, but told a customer who complained about VOIP restrictions on Twitter that it was “working” to solve the problem.

And while the Sultanate of Oman is still blocking the WhatsApp application, which is owned by Facebook, it said that Skype for Business, Google Mate, Zoom and WebEx are now available. The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority said the move was aimed at helping business continuity and communications.

In Qatar, where a permit to use VIBIP applications is required, a customer service employee at Vodafone Qatar said that WhatsApp and Skype are prohibited, but Zoom and WebEx are available via data service on mobile phones.

Sameh El-Khatib prepared for the Arab Newsletter – edited by Lilian Wagdy

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