Smartphone users buzzing after KSA unblocks Internet calls

Updated 22 September 2017
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Smartphone users buzzing after KSA unblocks Internet calls

RIYADH: Saudi smartphone users were calling out with joy this week after the government lifted a ban on apps that allow video and voice services.
Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha earlier this month issued a directive to unblock calling apps that have met regulatory requirements, with users able to access them from Wednesday.
The move will make the likes of FaceTime, Snapchat, Skype, Line, Telegram and Tango available to smartphone users across the Kingdom.
Mohammed Ali, a Sri Lankan national who works in Saudi Arabia as a senior accountant, said he was happy about the move.
“I tried the apps Line and YeeCall, and was able to talk to my relatives back home,” he told Arab News.
“Many of us were spending a lot on calls in order to speak to relatives and friends.”
Iffat Aabroo, another Riyadh resident, said: “WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger calling was unblocked too as I made calls using both the online apps on Thursday ... the voice quality is also better.”
Zafar Hasan, a software engineer working in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News that he made calls using Imo, Skype and Tango. But despite repeated attempts, Viber appeared to remain blocked in the Kingdom, he added.
According to ministry sources, online calls will be monitored following the lifting of the ban.


Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

There was an explosion of joy at the podium when Antonio Felix da Costa lifted the winner’s trophy at the conclusion of the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 44 min 54 sec ago
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Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

  • Three-day event at Ad Diriyah reaches spectacular climax in an unprecedented spirit of openness

AD DIRIYAH: The driver with the winner’s trophy was Antonio Felix da Costa — but the real winners were Saudi Arabia itself, and more than 1,000 tourists visiting the country for the first time.

Da Costa, the Andretti Motorsport driver, won the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix in front of thousands of race fans at a custom-built track in the historic district on the outskirts of Riyadh.

But in truth, the event was about much more than high-tech electric cars hurtling round a race track — thrilling though that was. The three-day festival of motorsport, culture and entertainment was Saudi Arabia’s chance to prove that it can put on a show to rival anything in the world, and which only two years ago would have been unthinkable.

The event was also the first to be linked to the Sharek electronic visa system, allowing foreigners other than pilgrims or business visitors to come to Saudi Arabia.

Jason, from the US, is spending a week in the country with his German wife, riding quad bikes in the desert and visiting heritage sites. “I’ve always wanted to come for many, many years ... I’m so happy to be here and that they’re letting us be here,” he said.

Aaron, 40, a software engineer, traveled from New York for two days. “Saudi Arabia has always been an exotic place ... and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to come here,” he said.

About 1,000 visitors used the Sharek visa, a fraction of what Saudi Arabia aims eventually to attract. 

“Hopefully we will learn from this and see what we need to do for the future, but I can tell you from now that there is a lot of demand,” said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, vice chairman of the General Sports Authority.

His optimism was backed by Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund and a visitor to Ad Diriyah. “Such events will attract tourists and are a true celebration for young Saudis who desire a bright future,” he said.

“The vision of moderate Islam, promoted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is important both for the region and the entire world, and its realization needs to be appreciated, respected and supported.”

The event ended on Saturday night with a spectacular show by US band OneRepublic and the superstar DJ David Guetta. “Just when you think things can’t get better, they suddenly do,” said concertgoer Saleh Saud. “This is the new Saudi Arabia, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.”