Apple iTunes opens line to Skype
The Skype internet telephone service is the most popular free download on the UAE version of the Apple iTunes Application Store, despite a ban on the software. The store, which distributes programs made for the Apple iPhone, was launched to coincide with Etisalat's release of the device last month. Skype for iPhone appeared at the top of the UAE Application Store's list of most popular free downloads in the UAE today.
The application was released globally on Tuesday, and was downloaded more than 600,000 times in the 24 hours after its launch. Skype's website has been blocked in the UAE since 2005, at the request of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). Websites allowing access to internet-calling services are blocked by the TRA's prohibited content policy, along with sites containing pornography, religious slander, gambling and malicious software.
The regulator maintains that Skype, along with other applications that allow cheap or free telephone calls to be made over the internet, require a UAE telecommunications licence to be able to offer their services. It was unclear whether the availability of the application was an oversight or represented a change in policy by the TRA. The TRA and Etisalat did not reply to requests for comment. Telecoms companies around the world have been wary of introducing internet-calling applications on to mobile handsets, fearing users will choose to make long-distance calls over the internet rather than the mobile network.
The concern is particularly strong in markets where customers are on unlimited mobile data plans that provide a constant internet connection for a fixed price. Partly to ease these concerns, the mobile version of Skype cannot make calls though 3G mobile internet systems, and must instead be connected to a local wireless internet network. By next month, versions of Skype will be available for all major phone-operating systems, including BlackBerry, the Symbian system used by Nokia and others, and Microsoft's Windows Mobile.
T-Mobile, the German mobile operator, said customers using Skype on a handset connected to its network were in violation of their contracts with the company and risked having their phone lines terminated. "I find it quite telling that Deutsche Telekom would be so bold as to announce this arbitrary blocking of Skype," wrote Robert Miller, a lawyer for Skype. "They pretend that their action has to do with technical concerns: this is baseless." @Email:email@example.com
Updated: April 2, 2009 04:00 AM