Soon after users were elated over the unblocking of WhatsApp’s voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) functions in the UAE last week, the government seems to have restricted the use of WhatsApp’s voice and video-calling services again.
Over the last few days, UAE residents have experienced intermittent VoIP access.
But now users say they’re no longer able to place video and voice calls using the instant messaging app.
VoIP services, including video-calling, have been restricted in the UAE, with the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA) allowing only licensed providers to offer such services.
Video and voice calls on WhatsApp have been blocked in the country as it is a VoIP service.
VoIP services are still a prerogative of the licensed providers who reserve the right to provide such services through their networks, according to TRA.
Companies wishing to offer such services must co-ordinate with the licensed telecom providers in the UAE, according to the telecom regulator.
Users in UAE have been using other services such as Snapchat and FaceTime, but their video calling abilities are also blocked.
According to a recent study, the proportion of internet users in the UAE who use Snapchat grew from 15% in 2014 to 53% last year.
The popularity of the app, which allows users to capture and share a photo or video that is only available to view for 24 hours before it is deleted, is said to be linked to the growing youth population in the Middle East and their need to find creative ways to express themselves.
While iPhones available in the UAE do not have the FaceTime feature, many users have being paying more to buy iPhones from the gray market to avail the video-calling feature.
Several online marketplaces have been selling iPhones with and without FaceTime feature, netting a higher margin on the first version.
According to another survey, WhatsApp and Facebook are the most popular social media platforms among users in the UAE.
Around 97% of respondents use WhatsApp while 89% use Facebook, as per the study.
Video sharing site YouTube finished third behind WhatsApp and Facebook with 73%.