Saudi Arabian telecom regulatory authority Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) has banned Viber, an app that allows users to make free calls, send instant messages and share multimedia files over the Internet.
The reason given for the ban is that it is hard for the state and law enforcement to monitor Viber communications. The CITC also says that the app deprives existing telecom companies of revenue from international calls and texts.
“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 CITC said in a statement on its website.
Get outta here!
Reuters reports that attempts to use Viber on two different smartphones and to download it onto a computer in Saudi Arabia did not work. Viber’s website also beamed a message saying the service had been banned in Saudi Arabia. The regulator’s directive also mentions any other applications or services that are similar to Viber may get the axe. So tools such as WhatsApp and Skype could also be under the scanner.
Saudi Arabia has some 15.8 million Internet subscribers and despite heavy restrictions on use of Internet, the average user watches three times as many online videos every day as users in the United States, according to a YouTube survey. Interestingly, the Meeker Internet Trends Report, which was released last week, found that over 60 percent of Saudi Arabians share everything or almost everything they see online. Surely, a big chunk of that comes from services like Viber, WhatsApp and other IM apps that allow users to share images and videos.
International calls and texts make up a large chunk of revenue for Saudi telecom operators thanks to nearly 9 million expatriates in the kingdom. Analysts believe the rampant use of apps like Viber among this community has led to a decline in revenue for telecom players.
With inputs from Reuters