The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has begun negotiations which could lead to OTT messaging and call services such as Skype and FaceTime being unblocked. Currently only the UAE’s two licensed telcos, Etisalat and Du, can offer these services as part of subscription packages, but the regulator is reportedly in talks with the firms behind the apps.
Microsoft, which operates Skype, has confirmed that it is speaking with the TRA, with Gulf News citing a Microsoft spokesperson as saying: ‘We have been working closely with the local authorities towards gaining a better understanding of the local requirements in an effort to get Skype unblocked.’ Meanwhile, local press reports are also suggesting that Apple is negotiating with the regulator to open up its FaceTime video messaging app. Other OTT services such as WhatsApp and Google’s Duo could also be unblocked.
The UAE news comes as authorities in Iran have moved in the opposite direction, by blocking the popular messaging app Telegram with effect from 30 April. Reuters cites the state TV service as reporting: ‘Considering various complaints against the Telegram social networking app by Iranian citizens, and based on the demand of security organisations to confront the illegal activities of Telegram, the judiciary has banned its usage in Iran.’ Some officials have said that Telegram was used by protestors to organise anti-government demonstrations earlier this year. The judiciary website Mizan quotes a court order which outlines the reasons behind the ban, which include: ‘propaganda against the establishment, terrorist activities, spreading lies to incite public opinion, anti-government protests and pornography’. Telegram is thought to have up to 40 million users in Iran.