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What is going on with Viber?

Viber permanently blocked in Saudi Arabia

CEO says that the company “would not rest until the service has been restored in Saudi Arabia”

June 10, 2013 2:05 by

Friction-filled encounters between VoIP applications (and messaging services) and telecommunication regulators in the Middle East are certainly no breaking news. The latest has been Saudi Arabia’s decision to permanently block access and use of Viber’s calling and messaging services for failing to comply with security and regulatory prerequisites. And other countries, such as Egypt, may soon follow suit.

In case you’re unaware, the inability to monitor, and subsequently regulate, these free-to-use communication apps has been the ‘primary specified’ reason of why countries in the GCC and Middle East view them as security threats. However, reports (and common logic) indicate that depriving telecom companies of revenue from international calls is a close second.

Several days ago, Saudi’s telecommunications regulatory body, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (or CITC), announced that Viber will be blocked because “it does not currently meet the regulatory requirements and laws in Saudi Arabia”.

“The Viber application has been suspended … and the (regulator) affirms it will take appropriate action against any other applications or services if they fail to comply with regulatory requirements and rules in force in the kingdom,” the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) said in a statement on its website.

Talmon Marco, chief executive officer of Cyprus-based Viber, says they “regret this block,” but that the people of Saudi Arabia, like people of any other country, should have the right to communicate with their friends and family.

“It’s a shame that the Saudi authorities feel otherwise,” he said in an interview with Arab News.

In a statement released yesterday, the authority has also emphasised that few other applications, including WhatsApp, Tango and Skype, are currently under review, but it is not yet revealed whether they would be met with the same fate (an indefinite suspension) as Viber.

Marco says that the company “would not rest until the service has been restored in Saudi Arabia” and that Viber is currently developing technology that will “circumvent this block,” which he hopes will be rolled out in phases – with the first step scheduled in a couple of weeks.

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