Starting next week, WhatsApp in Saudi Arabia will be unblocked, along with other voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP, services. Officials in Saudi Arabia will also lift the ban on Skype and Viber effective next week.
Start using WhatsApp in Saudi Arabia next week
The Saudi Press Agency explained that the telecom regulator made the decision to unblock VoIP services like WhatsApp in Saudi Arabia so that those who live in the country can use apps that offer voice or voice calling. Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawahah made the announcement via Twitter on Thursday.
Regulators added that they are cooperating with their telecom partners under their Customer First policy, which aims to provide telecom subscribers in Saudi Arabia all the services that they expect and need. The policy is part of the nation’s broader Vision 2030 initiative, which was enacted by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose goals include improving technology in Saudi Arabia and building a society that is digital.
The government will be watching
Officials are placing some conditions on the use of VoIP services like WhatsApp in Saudi Arabia, however. The Minister for Communications and Information Technology reportedly told Arab News that government agencies and telecom services providers will be carefully monitoring the use of such apps. Telecom companies will also have to index and report subscribers’ complaints about such services so that transparency is ensured.
VoIP services like Viber, Skype and WhatsApp have been banned in Saudi Arabia since 2013. At that time, officials claimed that such services failed to comply with government regulations. Expatriates who live in the country are sure to welcome the removal of the block on services such as WhatsApp in Saudi Arabia. It will enable them to dramatically reduce their phone bills by using a VoIP service rather than traditional phone calls, which can get very expensive when one is placing international calls on a regular basis.
The removal of the block will also push the Vision 2030 initiative forward by enabling companies to use video conferencing services.
UAE will continue blocking WhatsApp
Saudi Arabia’s move is now leading many to turn to the United Arab Emirates, which also is home to many expatriates from around the globe. The UAE continues to ban VoIP services, although there was a brief time in June when the free calling feature on WhatsApp was unblocked, according to the Khaleej Times. It did not take long for regulators in the UAE to make it clear that they were still banning VoIP calling. They said that such services must comply with government regulations in the UAE and coordinate with the nation’s two licensed telecom providers, Du and Etisalat.
Other nations in the Middle East also have blocked WhatsApp, lumping it in with YouTube and social networks Facebook and Twitter. It was reported almost a year ago that Turkey began blocking all of these sites and Instagram. Countries in other parts of the world have also been reported to have blocked WhatsApp at various times, including Brazil, Bangladesh and others.