Possible lifting of VoIP ban hailed

Lucia Dore (Senior Correspondent)
Filed on October 14, 2006

DUBAI This week's announcement that the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA) is considering lifting the ban on voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) has been met with general praise from the telecom industry, primarily from those calling for greater competition and a better deal for consumers.

PC to phone calls via the Internet are now banned across the country, although PC to PC calls are legal. The ban has created a public uproar, claiming that the ban has been imposed purely for commercial purposes so that Etisalat can retain its dominant position in the domestic market and maximise revenues.

This week's report in Khaleej Times suggests that the ban could be lifted by the middle of next year. One on the most aggressive new operators in the region, Efonica, whose parent company Fusion is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has been quick to comment on the benefits of such a decision.

Roger Karam, CEO of Efonica, said that VoIP had made it possible for many people in the Arab world to connect with each other through affordable communications.

"The decision to review VoIP's implementation is a positive step, and we are eager to see that the UAE also becomes an important part of this global revolution," he said.

Karam noted that due to the ease of use and cost effectiveness of VoIP communications, the lifting of the ban would benefit businesses that depend on international communications as well as large numbers of expatriate residents who wish to stay in touch with their loved ones back home.

"Many companies that have set up operations in Dubai have offices all over the world and need to maintain regular contact with their colleagues through a cost-effective and efficient system," he said. "Awareness of the advantages of VoIP communications is increasing and the Arab world has to catch up quickly in the VoIP race."

Ibrahim Choueiry, Efonica's regional director for Asia and Africa, said: "The lifting of the ban on VoIP will further highlight the UAE's stature as an early adopter of best technology. We are confident that VoIP will open up new opportunities in communications and allow regional and international companies based in the UAE to become even more competitive."

Efonica's advanced VoIP solution allows consumers to call each other using their existing landline or mobile telephone numbers.

In the Middle East, the Efonica service is so far available in several countries throughout the region.

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