7 Feb 2011
The UAE’s telecoms operators Etisalat and Du have reportedly postponed the launch of IP telephony services, according to Emirates24/7, which cites local paper Emarat Al Youm. Officials from both operators reportedly said that the country’s telecoms regulator, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), has not yet set a policy for the operation of the service, except for determining pricing policies, and this has delayed the start of the service. The paper quoted a source as saying: ‘There is no directive to start voice-over-IP (VoIP) services soon. It was premature to set a date to start the service, which experts said would cut the price of international calls at rates ranging between 40% and 60% at least.’ However, Mohamed Al Ghanim, director general of TRA, has denied the officials’ claims, although he refused to set a date for a commercial launch of VoIP, saying: ‘It is a very complicated matter.’
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the TRA revealed it was developing a framework for the formal licensing of VoIP providers in September 2008, but it was not until March 2010 that the regulator announced that only the Sultanate’s four licensed telecoms operators – Etisalat, Du, and satellite companies Thuraya and Yahsat – would be allowed to offer the service. Previously, Etisalat and Du were the only companies allowed to provide internal VoIP services within the UAE, which banned international internet-based calls in 2004. International companies, such as Skype, remain barred from providing internet telephony, although they have the option of joining forces with one of the four local operators to legally offer the service.