Saudi Arabia will lift a ban on the voice and video calling functions of apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, and Viber starting September 20, its minister of communications and information technology has announced.
Sawaha, who is also the chairman of the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), the Kingdom’s telecom regulator, said that after discussions and negotiations, mobile providers have confirmed that they will make such services available.
He also pointed out though that all such applications will be reviewed periodically, to meet certain requirements, details of which were not disclosed.
According to Saudi Gazette, this move is in line with the Saudi government’s strategy to raise the level of “transparency and clarity” in the sector, which includes a new rating system of telcos based on subscriber complaints.
Saudi Arabia is home one of the world’s fastest growing mobile services using populations, frequently tops the charts when it comes to smartphone penetration and social media use of platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.
However, it has always had an iffy relationship with apps that offer voice and video calling functions.
Last year, it banned the voice and video chat functions on Facebook Messenger and imo, another IM app, while such functions on WhatsApp and Viber have been blocked for years.
This is similar to the UAE, which currently bans most voice and video calling functions on applications like WhatsApp, Facetime, Viber, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, etc.