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UAE cyber chief: Talks on lifting ban on WhatsApp calls, VoIP services still ongoing

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Discussions to lift a ban on some Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services like WhatsApp calls and FaceTime are still under consideration in the UAE, according to the country’s top cyber security chief.

“WhatsApp was opened for a specific part of time and it was used for some testing procedures, with the collaboration from WhatsApp themselves. There are some regulations that they still need to adhere to, and they are working on that,” Mohamed al-Kuwaiti, the head of the UAE Government’s cyber security entity, told a CNBC-moderated panel at the Gulf Information Security Expo and Conference in Dubai on Sunday.

Earlier in June 2017, UAE residents were briefly able to access WhatsApp’s voice and video calls to communicate with friends and relatives.

Al-Kuwaiti did not confirm what those regulations would like that but added that in “2021, we are optimistic towards that.”

VoIP services such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype for Business have been unlocked in the UAE given the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions forcing more people to work and study remotely. However, services via social media apps like WhatsApp and Apple’s FaceTime app still remain blocked for voice and video calls.

Many residents of the UAE are still forced to use fee-based services from either state telecoms companies Etisalat and Du.

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