UAE telecom official says long-term access to Zoom not TRA's decision

The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority told an FNC meeting it is not responsible for voice over internet calling apps

The Federal National Council holds a remote session to discuss video conferencing apps on Wednesday. Courtesy: FNC
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Telecommunication officials have said the decision to permanently lift restrictions on video conferencing programmes post-coronavirus does not lie with them.

On Wednesday, members of the Federal National Council questioned a senior official at the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority about long-term access to popular voice over internet (VoIP) apps, including Microsoft Teams and Zoom, once businesses and borders fully reopened.

"The authority is not responsible for such apps," said Hamad Al Mansoori, director general of TRA, during a remote FNC session.

“We are not in a position to answer the question about whether VoIPs will continue to be accessible [in the UAE] once the pandemic is over.”

These programme have become an essential tool for businesses, schools and government bodies since the outbreak of Covid-19 forced most people to work and study from home.

The UAE was quick to lift a ban on these tools to allow meetings to be held online.

Mira Al Suwaidi, an FNC member, said VoIP apps should remain accessible to allow businesses to flourish.

She said many projects were able to continue or emerged entirely during the pandemic by using VoIPs, “and we don’t know which of these will survive after the pandemic”.

Ms Al Suwaidi asked to what extent the TRA was obliging local telecom companies to co-operate with emerging businesses so they could continue to use video conferencing services.

“If we want to attract more companies to boost the economy of the country, Du and Etisalat must co-operate with this regard,” she said.

In March, the TRA said "exceptionally and until further notice" that business-orientated VoIP programmes would be accessible in the UAE via fixed line internet networks.

"In the context of the current situation" and with the aim of supporting distance learning amid the closure of schools and universities and the growing number of people working from home, "the TRA, in co-ordination with the UAE telecom operators, announces the availability of a group of applications," a statement from the regulator said.

The TRA said it would "periodically" review the list.


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