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Etisalat UAE Blocks WhatsApp Voice Calling Feature

At a time when mobile users across the world are embracing WhatsApp’s free voice calling feature – not actually free as it costs in MBs – telecom carriers across the world are increasingly becoming concerned.

Etisalat of UAE has simply  blocked the new feature on its network. It saw the new WhatsApp feature as a threat to its revenues, especially generated from millions of foreign workers in the country who make international calls.

whatsapp-voice-calling for android

It is still claimed that Etisalat users may still be able to use WhatsApp’s voice call feature on WiFi networks. According to the UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), the carriers have a control over the VoIP services they will be providing on their networks.

Therefore, Etisalat and other carriers in the country have a free hand when it comes to controlling any VoIP services offered on their networks.

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Etisalat and Du are the two licensed telecom providers in the country. Du hasn’t yet taken any action against the WhatsApp voice call feature, but after Etisalat’s move, it is also expected to preserve its domain and revenues.

Skype, another VoIP service, has been limited in the country. Skype users here can only send and receive text messages from their devices. No voice calls or video calls are allowed using mobile devices.

According to the UAE TRA, VoIP services using Skype is “un-authorised.” Similarly, Viber has also not been licensed in the country.

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Similar concerns are being felt across the world. India’s Bharti Airtel, for example, planned special VoIP calling packs a few months ago to control the threat. But it pulled back from the plans citing no authorisation from the Indian Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI). TRAI is about to release its consultation paper on the services.

India has a more consumer dominated market, and carriers are strictly regulated by the TRAI so that they don’t put the consumer to inconvenience. But the new free calling feature is certainly going to draw a lot of heat in this large telecom market.

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