UAE: ‘temporary glitch’ unblocks WhatsApp voice and video calls

When it comes to the list of smartphone apps that people use the most, we’d guess that instant messaging client WhatsApp ranks pretty high, which is why it’s so significant that WhatsApp voice calling appears to now be working in the UAE (both for domestic and international calls).

One of the standout features of the service was until now blocked in the UAE: and that is the ability to make voice and video calls for free. A function that has been blocked locally by the Telecoms Regulation Authority (TRA) due to it falling into the Voice Over IP (VoIP) category.

That is until now. Reports came in thick and fast online this morning that the service now appears to be unblocked within the UAE.

And it is. We have tested the WhatsApp voice and video calling functions across both WiFi and mobile data and can confirm that they are working within the UAE as of time of publishing. Although, we’ve often had trouble connecting, even domestically – perhaps due to high demand as everyone finds out it’s now available again.

We attempted a number of international calls but were only able to get through on some. So as it stands, the service appears to be unblocked locally but working sporadically internationally.

It is unclear at this stage whether this an accidental occurrence or a loosening from the TRA, and there’s no telling how long it will last.

UPDATE

Gulf News is reporting that a source quoted by Emarat Al Youm newspaper said that the reason voice and video calls suddenly became available via the service was due to a global update issued via WhatsApp last night.

The same source has also said that both Etisalat and du will look to reinstate the ban later in the day to comply with the below statement from the TRA.

The TRA has issued a statement clarifying that “there is no change” in the UAE’s Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) policy.

“TRA reconfirms that any applications or services of this type must comply with the applicable regulatory framework in the country,” it added.

This means VoIP services remain restricted in the UAE outside of officially licensed providers, however we don’t know if WhatsApp is now a licensed provider, or if the opening up of WhatsApp calling today is just a glitch. We’ll keep you updated…

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