Confusion over WhatsApp voice calls in the UAE: Blocked or not?

Ahlan! tries to decipher what's happening with new call function
ByAndre NevelingWednesday , 18 March 2015
Confusion over WhatsApp voice calls in the UAE: Blocked or not?
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WhatsApp has launched voice calls!

Thanks to mobile app WhatsApp, we’ve saved costs on text messages, been able to stay in contact with friends around the world, send voice notes and share files effortlessly. And now WhatsApp has taken things to a whole new level by launching a new voice call function! And if you haven’t heard about it yet, it’s because it’s all happened on the down low.

While the new function is available with the latest version of WhatsApp, they haven’t made a formal announcement yet. Perhaps it’s because they knew all the trouble they’d cause. Understandably telecom operators are not happy, because it’s going to change the way we make phone calls. As in free calls to anyone anywhere in the world! So it’s no surprise it’s already ruffled feathers in the UAE.

According to the new WhatsApp voice call feature is being blocked in the UAE. Say it isn’t so! Sources told the site that a few hours after the new function was activated by WhatsApp, UAE telecom operators scrambled the service. Why? Because apparently these VoIP services can only be offered in the UAE by licensed providers. And yes, we’re talking about Etisalat and du. The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) issued a statement about the use of VoIP in the UAE: "VoIP services are still a prerogative of the licensed providers who reserve the right to provide such services through their networks. Companies wishing to offer such services must co-ordinate with the licensed telecom providers in the UAE."

So here’s the confusion. If the new calling service has been scrambled, it might take a few days to affect users in the UAE. However, there’s a rumour that the lucky users in the UAE that have already activated the function might be able to continue using it on WIFI. Also, subscribers of du claim the service has been working without a hitch.

Neither Etisalat, du or WhatsApp has given us an official comment on the situation.