Apple’s native calling service FaceTime is reportedly fully functional in the United Arab Emirates after being blocked for many years. Journalists in the country noticed over the weekend that they were able to make FaceTime voice and video calls with good quality video and audio within the country and to foreign contacts.
Long-banned FaceTime calls now working in UAE
While no official statement has been made by the UAE’s Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority or the Cupertino tech giant, the Associated Press confirmed on Sunday that the FaceTime service was indeed available in the country.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — FaceTime calls seemed to be working in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, an apparent loosening of long-standing restrictions on the Apple program in the federation of seven sheikhdoms.
Currently, we do not know why the block was lifted, services in the past have been available for a short while before disappearing again. Competing services like Facebook and WhatsApp remain unavailable.
The UAE, home to the oil-rich capital of Abu Dhabi and the freewheeling financial hub of Dubai, long has blocked internet calling apps like WhatsApp and FaceTime, presumably due to security concerns and to protect the revenues of its monopoly state-run telecommunication companies. However, authorities have not publicly explained the ban. Apple iPhones and computers sold in the UAE typically do not carry the FaceTime calling app.
Given that WhatsApp and Skype calls continue to be blocked, it is plausible that the availability of FaceTime is temporary. It is being speculated that the ease in restrictions is related to Dubai’s Expo 2020. The move could have been made to encourage visitors to share what they have seen in the event and allow them to easily keep in touch with their friends and family.
Dubai opened its massive world’s fair earlier this month, an event that aims to attract millions of visitors from across the globe after a year’s delay due to the pandemic. On the sprawling Expo fairgrounds in Dubai’s southern desert, visitors are able to make WhatsApp and FaceTime calls. Authorities have not commented on the relaxation of restrictions.
Apple and Microsoft in 2018 tried to convince the UAE government to lift the blocks on FaceTime and Skype, the effort did not prove to be fruitful at the time.