Saudi Arabia will remove its ban on internet phone calls on Thursday, a government spokesman said, in a bid “aimed at stimulating online business as the kingdom looks to boost non-oil revenue,” Reuters reports.
The news is sure to be welcomed by the many foreign men and women who travel to Saudi Arabia for business, and for the millions of expatriates working in the Kingdom who wish to stay connected with friends and loved ones in other countries.
“All online voice and video call services such as Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp that satisfy regulatory requirements will become accessible at midnight (2100 GMT), Adel Abu Hameed, spokesman for the telecoms regulator CITC said on Twitter on Wednesday.”
The move will grant greater freedoms to Saudi citizens, residents, and visitors, but will also put pressure on Saudi telecom companies as they will lose out on high international calling fees.
The ban on these services was in place because of security concerns. Encrypted calling is harder to monitor and track for governments and security forces. In order to get a cellphone in Saudi Arabia, visitors and expatriates would have to show their passport and often wait in long lines to get a SIM card that could be used in Saudi Arabia.