Saudis set to lift ban on Internet calls

Source:Reuters Published: 2017/9/20 22:38:40

Saudi Arabia will remove its ban on Internet phone calls on Thursday, a government spokesperson has said, in a bid to stimulate online business as the kingdom looks to boost non-oil revenue.

All online voice and video call services, such as Microsoft's Skype and Facebook's WhatsApp, that meet regulatory requirements will become accessible at midnight, Adel Abu Hameed, spokesperson for the telecoms regulator CITC said Wednesday.

The lifting of the ban could pinch Saudi Arabia's three main telecoms operators - Saudi Telecom Co, Etihad Etisalat  and Zain Saudi - which earn substantial revenue from international phone and text calls that millions of expatriates in the kingdom make.

The policy reversal is part of the government's  program to diversify revenue sources, as oil prices affect the finances of the world's top exporter.

The information ministry explained the move by saying, "Digital transformation is one of the key kick-starters for the Saudi economy, as it will incentivize the growth of Internet-based businesses, especially in the media and entertainment industries," in a statement.

"Access to VoIP [voice over Internet protocol] will reduce operational costs and spur digital entrepreneurship," it added.

Gulf Arab states were mostly spared the "Arab Spring" mass protests often organized over the Internet which roiled much of the region in 2011.

But, the kingdom and its Gulf Arab neighbors have been concerned sbout the use of Internet communication, which experts say, is harder to monitor, especially when used by activists and militants.

Posted in: MID-EAST

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