In what is being regarded as a highly welcomed step in promoting the use of technology, the Saudi Government has decided to lift the prevalent ban on online voice and video calling. At the moment, FaceTime is not part of the online voice and video ban which has been lifted in the country.
The Saudi ban on voice and video calling through apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, Viber and IMO had been enforced since 2013.
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Time for Expatriates to Rejoice
For a large expatriate community that comes to work in the Saudi Kingdom, this comes as uplifting news for sure. Calling back home through telecommunication networks and not being able to do so through VoIP costs much more than anyone would like to pay.
The ban had always been seen as successful lobbying by the telecommunications community to keep forcing such people to pay for expensive calling rates. Using the internet to now make calls instead of the conventional network will bring costs down for these people monumentally.
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When Will the Online Voice and Video Ban Be Officially Lifted?
Starting from September 20th, 2017, people living, travelling to and from Saudi Arabia will be able to use the internet for online voice and video calling in the Kingdom through various apps.
Specially, the ban on widely used apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, Viber and IMO will be lifted completely. Sources claim that the telecommunications ministry in Saudi Arabia will keep a close look on users and monitor the use as well.
Why is the Ban on Voice and Video Being Lifted?
It’s widely known that Saudi Arabia is now looking forward to encouraging foreign investment and the use of technology in its plan to phase out the kingdom’s dependency on oil. For the first time in recent history, Saudi Arabia faced a deficiency of billions of dollars in the country’s annual budget, which put top policy makers on alert.
This ban lift came about after efforts were made by the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) to negotiate with telecom service providers in the country. Minister of Communications and Information Technology said the following according to Gulf News by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA):
“This fruitful cooperation between the Kingdom’s telecom partners comes under the umbrella of ‘Customer First’, a policy in which everyone works in order to give all telecom subscribers in the Kingdom the best services that meet their expectations and satisfy their needs.”
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Will FaceTime Also Be Unblocked in Saudi Arabia?
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any update on whether Apple’s renowned FaceTime will be unblocked or not.
FaceTime was officially banned in the Saudi Kingdom by communications’ authorities earlier in 2016 and is still under the axe. It should be noted that FaceTime also comes under the category of online voice and video services through VoIP, but at the moment, only WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and IMO have been declared as being set free.
Apple users will instead be able to use the above mentioned apps for communication over the internet as FaceTime faces a region wide ban in the Gulf countries. Other countries such as the United Arab Emirates also have banned FaceTime, forcing Apple users to use conventional communication methods instead.
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Will WhatsApp, Skype, Viber and IMO be Unbanned in Other Gulf Countries as well?
As of latest updates, there is consideration going on within the government organizations to uplift the ban similar to what the Saudi Government has done by various Gulf countries. But, it is still unclear when they will announce such a move or not.
FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype, IMO and Viber are still banned in and around most Gulf countries such as UAE and Oman.
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