The reason why WhatsApp calls are not allowed in the UAE (not only emirate of Dubai, but also at the Capital emirate of Abu Dhabi and other 5 Emirates, Umm Al Qhwain, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Juan and Sharjah) is due to a federal regulation.
Four major reasons:

  1. Greed: UAE has 2 state-run telecom companies and almost 80% of the population is Expat. So, allowing whatsapp call will simply lead to revenue loss.
  2. Security: UAE wants access to the VOIP calls and this is something Whatsapp, Skype, Apple do not conform to. Privacy is a big concern for some companies atleast Skype and Apple.
  3. Economic motivation: Being a monarchy, UAE has the option to make rules as they like. Their own citizens are usually secure and dont care about all this…and the expats are usually paid quite well to even think about all this. However, this ban gives UAE a string leverage as it can force Micrsoft and Apple to invest in UAE in form data centres, retail presence etc. leading to jobs and an economic boost
  4. Old-school: Although UAE is a pretty ahead in terms of digitization, the Board at these Telcos is still ‘old school’. they are not moving ahead with times, where DATA is the new cash-cow. they simply have the option to increase data costs and VOIP calls need data to work. Simple as that. They can easily earn the same amount of revenue as they do now by just making data a little more expensive.

The law is clear stating that telecommunications services can only be provided by a licensed telecommunications provider.

Any voip service like WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype, Skype-for-Business, etc are hence not licensed so officially not allowed.

Up until 2015, 2016, the regulation existed but was not enforced, reason why tourists visiting the region, and even expats, who are 85% of total population, could call using the excellent IP network infrastructure of the country for their voip calls abroad, and had a great service, all free.

At that time in 2015/2016 an application voip filter at UAE’s proxy level at the backbone of the interconnect nodes was configured jumbling the voip signal. It’s done at the UDP protocol, jamming that traffic. That was also the time that the local duopoly of service providers launched a subscription service that when a certain fee is paid monthly the filters are lifted and all voip traffic works as normal.

Another forbidden service in UAE is VPN. VPN encrypts traffic and it’s not possible to see where your signal is originating, whether in UAE or anywhere else, hence people could dodge the filters for a while. But now even these personal VPN services are being found and regulation says that heavy penalties could be applied if found.

The wise UAE rulers and the government recognise that this causes a major issue and in 2017 started discussions on how to change the law to allow for voip traffic to be used in the country, in line with any other country worldwide but so far, no visible progress is known to have been made yet since today 14.12.2019.

Dubai isn’t one of the richest places on Earth because they’re nice – It’s because they are greedy.
As others have stated, the reason is most obviously greed – They don’t want you, or anyone, using free apps when you could be directing money towards their telecom companies.

Other users have explained why this is the way it is due to federal regulations and whatnot – but that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to offer a solution, or rather an alternative way to access WhatsApp.

It’s still not free as it should be, but I think this is as cheap as you can get it for. There’s this little thing called Virtual Numbers. What do they do? Well, to simplify it, they allow you to have a number that originates from almost any country in the world for a small price. Here’s an example: You want a USA number that you can use to say, create and use a WhatsApp account with, but you live in Dubai – If you have access to the internet, then you can get that USA number AND use it with a WhatsApp account and then you can use WhatsApp from Dubai. It’s as simple as that.
As far as recommendations for this service go, mine’s Hottele.com

Some users claim that the VoIP service seems to be working for them.

Several UAE residents told Khaleej Times on Friday that they were able to access WhatsApp voice calls even others said nothing seems to have changed for them.

Residents said they were able to make voice calls to their friends and relatives via WhatsApp, with some claiming that they were able to make international calls too even as such calls did not last for longer than a few minutes. “I used both du WiFi and data, and calling worked,” said a Dubai resident.

This isn’t the first time that UAE residents have been able to access WhatsApp calling. In June 2017, several UAE residents discovered that the voice and video calling feature of WhatsApp was enabled on their devices.

The euphoria was short-lived as the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) had then, once again, clarified that there was no change in the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) policy in the country.

The TRA has on several occasions maintained that any application or service of this type must comply with the applicable regulatory framework in the country.

TRA maintains that “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 coordinate with the licensed telecom providers in the UAE”.

Nevertheless, several users also told Khaleej Times yesterday that the feature did not work for them. Rohit (name changed on request) said that he tried calling his friends from India but the call didn’t go through. “My calls to India were connecting but there was no clear audio,” he said.

In December 2017, access to Skype – a popular VoIP app was also blocked in the country. UAE-based telecom company Etisalat said that access to Skype has been blocked over unlicensed VoIP calls.

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