Free BBM Voice calls in UAE? BlackBerry says working on it

BlackBerry has confirmed that even as VoIP-based services in the UAE remain restricted, the Canadian firm is working with its ‘carrier partners’ to offer these to UAE residents at some point in the future.

“We respect and are compliant with local laws and regulations. BBM Voice and Video leverage VoIP as a communication mechanism. We are actively working with our carrier partners in the UAE to offer services like BBM Voice, Video and BBM Meetings in the future,” Kim van Bokhoven, BlackBerry’s PR Manager for the Middle East, told Emirates 24|7.

BBM chats offer free VoIP-based voice calls to a user’s BBM contacts on iPhone, Android and BlackBerry anywhere in the world using data or Wi-Fi connection.

BBM Voice was first introduced by BlackBerry on its devices in 2012, but extended the service to iPhones and Android smartphones in February last year. “With BBM Voice, you can make free calls to BBM contacts anywhere in the world using your Wi-Fi or data connection. When a BBM contact is available for a BBM Voice call you’ll see a green icon in the top right hand corner of your chat. To call them, simply touch the green icon and your call will be connected,” BlackBerry’s head of product and brand marketing for BBM Jeff Gadway wrote in a blog post last year.

With the unveiling of the BlackBerry 10 platform in January 2013, Blackberry launched the Video Chat feature for its Messenger instant messaging app. While making video calls, it offers the option of switching between front and rear camera, so the person on the other end can look at you or see what you’re looking at.

In addition, the BBM Video Chat also offers a screen sharing feature which allows one to share what other apps are on one’s screen with the person on the other end – handy if you’d like to discuss a project or watch a video together.

In the UAE, however, these services as well as VoIP-based offers from other global providers like WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, etc. remained restricted as the country’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has granted that prerogative to only licensed providers.

In 2013, the TRA announced that the Telecommunications Law and the TRA’s VoIP regulatory policy “allows only the licensees (i.e. ‘etisalat’ and ‘du’) to provide telecommunications services in the UAE, including VoIP services.”

Earlier this year, the TRA reiterated its VoIP stand when WhatsApp rolled out its free voice calls service across the globe, and which was then barred in the country.

“VoIP services are still a prerogative of the licensed providers who reserve the right to provide such services through their networks. Companies wishing to offer such services must co-ordinate with the licensed telecom providers in the UAE,” the TRA said in March 2015.

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