Saudi Arabia Bans Viber

Reuters has reported that Saudi Arabia’s telecommunications regulating office has banned the use of Viber, a web-based communications app, largely because the state finds the app difficult to monitor while depriving licensed wireless carriers of earning from international calls and text messages.

“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 state’s Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) said in a statement published on its website.

Viber, which works similarly to WhatsApp and Line, enables users to make and receive calls and messages for free, as well as share files with contacts over the Internet. The mobile app has yet to generate revenue despite its relative success, but the company has plans on putting up a “sticker shop,” much like how Line gets its coins.

The CITC has yet to specify what regulatory requirements and rules Viber has breached, but it seems that Saudi Arabia is pushing for a much tighter control over cyberspace as Internet and smartphone usage among the kingdom’s peasants continues to rise.

Viber users within the country are unable to use the app on their smartphones, while attempts to download it onto a computer has also failed. The company’s website has also posted information about its app getting banned in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom has over 15.8 million Internet subscribers, while its mobile penetration in 2012 was 188 percent. Local telecom operators earn big from charging for conventional international calls and text messages, especially among Saudi Arabia’s foreign workers. It is also this market sector that has increasingly been using Internet-based apps like Viber to communicate with family and friends in other countries.

There are also speculations that the Saudi government singled out Viber because its owner has Israeli heritage. That, however, has yet to be confirmed.

Source: Reuters

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