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25 April 2024

TRA urged to lift VoIP ban to help outsourcing sector

By Karen Remo-Listana


Senior information technology executives are urging the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) to take a more liberal stance in the telecoms sector, specifically in its “restrictive” regulation on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

“We need to see transformation in the UAE’s telecommunications industry basically by enabling VoIP and by reducing the international private circuits by at least 70 per cent,” Ismail Al Naqi, director of Dubai Outsource Zone, told Emirates Business. “We need a total transformation of the way of thinking in the telecommunications business.”

He said Dubai, which eyes a Dh55 billion share in the outsourcing pie in the next five years, may be superseded by Egypt in the outsourcing business because of its more liberal telecoms rules compared to the emirate.

In the UAE, free to low-cost web-based VoIP services are blocked and VoIP websites, such as Skype.com and Net2Phone.com, have been banned. Although they can be accessed from free zones, VoIP services use huge bandwidth thereby making them equally costly if not more expensive than telephone calls.

TRA has defended its decision to block VoIP services, claiming that they should be treated like conventional mobile and fixed line services and therefore need licensing. VoIP services will thus be allowed only through licensed telecommunication operators – etisalat and du.

Etisalat, however, earlier said it is technically ready to provide VoIP services, pending the regulator’s approval.

“In terms of technologies and infrastructure, we are ready to provide the service, but the regulator needs to set the terms and conditions for providing such a service first,” said Ahmad Abdulkarim Julfar, chief operations officer of etisalat. “The service will be introduced soon, this year or may be next year, I don’t know, but it is on the regulator’s agenda,” he said, adding that it will happen sooner or later and there is no choice but to accept it.

Hesham El Nahhas, Alcatel-Lucent regional director for the Middle East concurs, saying VoIP is “inevitable”.

“VoIP is a new trend that will definitely continue. Any upcoming projects would go to the next technology which is the VoIP,” he told Emirates Business.

He said most new projects now require legitimate VoIP services or those that are used only within a company’s premises. But once the ban on illegal VoIP services, or those that connect to national or international networks, is lifted, he said more companies will be convinced to use the service.

“Once the ban is lifted, there would be more opportunities,” he said. “If you can show your customers the return on investments on using VoIP instead of paying thousands in bills to etisalat or du, then they will definitely consider VoIP rather than what they use today.”