Whatsapp, the popular Facebook-owned messaging service, has only started offering free voice calls via an invite system in the past week but a major telecom provider in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has reportedly blocked the feature even before it is fully rolled out.
WhatsApp voice calls ban
The messenger?s much awaited calling feature is slowly being rolled out around the world with users only capable of activating it by receiving an invitation from a friend who?s already using it. A handful of users in the UAE has managed to enable this VoIP feature. However, local news site Emirates 24/7 reported that Etisalat, one of the country?s largest carriers, has blocked the feature over its network on Monday. The ban is said to affect all subscribers within four to six days.
The site further also shared that another telecom company called Du will likely follow Etisalat?s footsteps. Du subscribers who can access WhatsApp voice calls are still able to use it. But it is expected that the leniency isn?t going to last.
This ban is in line with a ruling issued by UAE?s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) back in 2013 stating that ?The Telecommunications Law and the TRA?s VoIP regulatory policy only allows the licensees (i.e. Etisalat and Du) to provide telecommunications services in the UAE including VoIP services.? If you?re not aware, users of other messaging apps like Skype and Viber in this Middle Eastern country are only able to use those for sending and receiving text messages.
There are various factors why carriers would want to block VoIP calling feature offered by mobile apps. Some are worried about security and others cite the huge cost of maintaining enough 3G or 4G networks to support such feature.
Nevertheless, this ban doesn?t come as a surprise as Bharti Airtel, a Indian multinational telecom company, has previously disclosed its reluctance to support VoIP calling services. So far, no other countries aside from those mentioned has announced any similar restriction. But with WhatsApp?s immense popularity and the impending official calling feature, more global operators are expected to follow Etisalat?s move.
Photo Credit: ?WhatsApp Media Kit