Folks In Saudi Arabia Can Now Use FaceTime, WhatsApp and Other Video/Voice Calling Apps

Zara Ali
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Saudi Arabia has finally done something that it should have done ages ago for its countrymen. The government there has finally lifted the ban on services that offered access to call someone over the internet, which included apps like WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime, and others. This decision is made to attract businesses to the country. Effective from last night, folks in Saudi Arabia can now enjoy communication apps without any legal bindings.

The government tied these apps with stringent regulation in 2013 as they suspected safety of communication over the internet. Now that the government has shed all its inhibitions about such apps, residents of Saudi Arabia can now connect with their family and friends. The government believes that this decision will "kick-start" the country's economy after it got hit by dipping oil prices. It is worth sharing that the popular confession app, Sarahah was the brainchild of a Saudi developer Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq. The app became an overnight success on both  App Store and Google Play Store. Many other such startups by Saudi based developers are attracting venture capitalists to the country. In such condition, it is only wise for the government to loosen up its strict communication laws.

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All voice and video calling services like Skype and WhatsApp that meet regulatory standards will become available to use. Abu Hameed, a spokesman for the telecoms regulator, Communications and Information Technology (CITC), Saudi Arabia took to Twitter on Wednesday to share the big news.

Here's what Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission said in a press release (translated):

Saudi Arabia will lift a ban on internet phone calls, a government spokesman said, part of efforts to attract more business to the country. All online voice and video call services such as Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp that satisfy regulatory requirements will become accessible at midnight (2100 GMT), Adel Abu Hameed, spokesman for the telecoms regulator CITC said on Twitter on Wednesday.

“Digital transformation is one of the key kick-starters for the Saudi economy, as it will incentivise the growth of internet-based businesses, especially in the media and entertainment industries,” a statement from the information ministry said. “Access to VoIP (voice over internet protocol) will reduce operational costs and spur digital entrepreneurship – that’s why it is such an important step in the Kingdom’s internet regulation,” it said.

Even though services like Skype, WhatsApp, and other will work, access to extremist, porn, or gambling-related websites will still stay restricted. Also, as devices sold in Saudi Arabia shipped without communication apps, they will need carrier updates to ratify the access.

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