17 January, 2006

Protecting customers?

From Emirates Today:
Dubai residents said they could not think of any reason why making calls over the internet is illegal in the UAE, apart from it protecting the interests of the country’s only communications provider. Programmes such as Skype, Net-to-Phone and gcc2u now enable anyone with an ADSL internet connection to make international calls at a fraction of the price charged by Etisalat. However, internet users in the UAE cannot download those programmes here.

“Internet phone calls are a legitimate mode of communication all over the world,” said Martin, 27, who did not want to give out his last name because of the sensitivity of the topic. I guess here they are illegal because there are many foreign ers who need to call home and this is a big source of revenue for the telecom provider.” The Polish designer, who has been living in the UAE since he was 11, said he uses an internet application, which he downloaded on his personal computer illegally, to call friends and relatives abroad.

“I buy prepaid cards from internet cafes here. It works out much cheaper… the rule to make these calls illegal is only serving the monopoly.” Another UAE resident, Ravi from India, agreed. “Internet calls are only illegal in those places where the service provider is not ready to give it to the public. This is the next big thing in the IT world but it is seen as a threat to operator’s profits.” Ravi, who also refused to give his full name, goes to internet cafes where he said he can speak to his parents in the United States for five hours at a cost of just Dh40. He said his friends who have ADSL lines at home make the calls on their computers. “I have introduced this programme to four or five people in the six months since I have known about it,” he said.

However, an official at the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority insisted that making internet phone calls illegal was not motivated by a desire to protect Etisalat. “We are protecting customers,” said Mohamed Gheyath, manager of IT affairs at the authority, who said that the companies selling pre-paid cards enabling customers to make internet calls have no licence and therefore there is no guarantee they comply with security and quality service standards.


Anonymous said...

Well, Skype is not limited to running on ADSL, which the reporter seems to think. Geez, cannot reporters writing about technology ever get it right?

It's a cheap cop-out to justify the block with "we're just protecting you" from bad service. Users here are apparently not seen as intelligent enough to make up their own minds about what is acceptable service to them or not. And if they block this to "protect us" from poor service, shouldn't they block us compeltely from Etisalat then, whose service really sucks in every way imaginable?

Anonymous said...

Keefieboy has it too (http://webmasterdubai.blogspot.com/)

Tim Newman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sheikha cheryl said...

Well the guy that said, "We are protecting customers" is starting to sound like Dub-ya Bush; just because someone says it doesn't mean it's true.

I may stand corrected, but I don't believe there is any telecom law that specifically addresses VOIP. This is E****lat's way of scrambling to either combat the "problem" or their way of buying time to figure out how they are going to make money at it. They are obviously not serious about providing up-to-date technology for their customers considering most everyone out by Interchange 5 has unlimited access.

As far as "security and quality service standards", check out how fast your connection really is: http://www.internetfrog.com/mypc/speedtest/

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