Saudi Arabia rings in joy, lifts WhatsApp call ban

JEDDAH: Users of WhatsApp were a joyous lot on Saturday as the call facility finally became available on the popular messaging service in the Kingdom.
The facility, which is for free now, through WhatsApp was earlier banned in Saudi Arabia and only messaging service was available. “The ban has been lifted in the Kingdom,” said local media on Saturday.

Riyadh-based software engineer Faisal Haleem termed it a good initiative which will “help open up the telecom market and bring the rates down for both local and international calls.”

Sultan Abdullah, a student at King Abdul Aziz University, said: “I heard about the free call facility through my friend on WhatsApp. I tried and it was indeed working.”
In the past, he said, every time you tried to call someone via WhatsApp, a standard voice message would tell you that this service is not available in your country.

Mirza Abdul Muqeet, a Pakistani expat in Jeddah, welcomed the news. “In this day and age when such free apps are available, it was painful to spend huge amounts on telephone bills,” he said. “I would run bills in hundreds of riyals calling my relatives in Karachi.”
He claimed that telephone call rates are among the highest in Saudi Arabia and thanked the Saudi authorities for the move.

A few months ago, WhatsApp had issued a statement on its website that read: “Unfortunately, the WhatsApp Calls service is not available in all countries due to local laws and regulations.”

The statement continued: “If you are in any of these countries, you will not be able to make or receive these calls, and if you are in a country that offers the WhatsApp Calls service, you will not be able to call users located in countries that do not offer the service.”

Meanwhile, the CITC, telecom regulatory authority in the Kingdom, did not confirm whether the call facility is temporary or permanent.