Voice Over Internet Protocol services such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype, to be allowed.

Saudi Arabia has announced it is to rescind its current ban on internet phone calls this week, a government spokesman for The Kingdom has said.

The news is the latest move by the Saudi government to boost its non-related economy and boost online business. The Kingdom had previously blocked VoIP apps for failing to comply with “regulations”.

The relaxation of the current rules means that voice and video calling apps such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype will once again be ‘widely available to users’, a government statement said at the start of the week. 

Skype: No longer banned in Saudi Arabia, which is nice. Now you have to call your mother.

No Skype in Saudi Arabia? Are you sure?

There was up until a few years ago, and then it was banned. Apparently it was as much to do with the explosion of Saudi citizens using communication tools that utilized encryption by default, that authorities didn’t like, as much as anything else.

Bizarrely Saudi Arabia, with its bottom heavy young population has one of the highest proportional social media use per capita of anywhere on Earth.

A win for an open and free internet?

Kind of. It’s a bit hit and miss. “Access to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) will reduce operational costs and spur digital entrepreneurship,” a government statement said, apparently referring to a briefing from the Saudi communications and technology ministry. “Digital transformation is one of the key kick-starters for the Saudi economy, as it will incentivise the growth of internet-based businesses, especially in the media and entertainment industries.”

As one door opens…

The apparent opening up and relaxation regarding VOIP apps comes in the same week that the Qatari based Al Jazeera news network was blocked from posting updates on SnapChat, by SnapChat, in Saudi Arabia, most likely at the request of Saudi officials.  

The Saudi Arabian government traditionally does not like the Middle-Eastern news agency, and claimed this week that it was “harmful, propaganda-pushing channel that supports extremism”. Unsurprisingly, Al Jazeera says the accusations are utter nonsense, and replied that Snapchat’s actions were a “clear attack on the rights of journalists and media professionals to report and cover stories freely from around the world”.

The Al Jazeera website was blocked in Saudi Arabia in May, shortly before Qatar and Saudi Arabia severed all links with each other.

You can download the latest VoIP applications here on FileHippo, including Skype, WhatsApp and Viber.