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WhatsApp, Skype could be blocked in Saudi Arabia

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The regulator, however, did not specify the circumstances under which such an action is deemed to be taken

NEW DELHI, INDIA: In an attempt to curtail information and prevent revenue loss to telecom operators, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is expected to cut off access to popular messaging apps- WhatsApp and Skype. The autocratic regime wanted them to adhere to local laws and establish servers in the Arabian territory.

Earlier, the kingdom's telecom watchdog Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) alleged that Skype was flouting telecom laws. Both services are already under scrutiny. Saudi Arabia last week banned another instant messaging site Viber.

CITC governor Abdullah Al-Darrab to a local English-language news service told that they have been communicating with WhatsApp and similar Web platforms for cooperation and compliance, but nothing has materialized yet.

The Saudi Arabian Government wanted to closely monitor the content that pose a serious threat to its regime. The move is apparently aimed at censorship, although, it could also safeguard telcos business interests.

The regulator did not specify the circumstances under which such an action is deemed to be taken. CITC, in March had warned that appropriate action would be taken against applications or services that do not comply with regulations.

The watchdog has reportedly asked Saudi Telecom, Etihad Etisalat and Zain Saudi if they could monitor or block such services. A significant part of operators' revenue comes from conventional long-distance telephony and messaging services.

KSA, as of Q3 2012, had 53.1 million mobile subscriptions; 15.2 million Internet users; and has more than 40 per cent mobile broadband penetration.

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