The UAE's small business community has hit out at the restrictions preventing them from using voice over internet protocol (VoIP) applications, claiming that they are slowing the growth of small-to-medium companies.
The telecommunications regulator, the TRA, has made little attempt to increase competition in the VoIP market, with Etisalat and du still the only VoIP licence holders, The National reports.
However, the lack of competition is affecting the bottom line of UAE's small businesses, who say they are left with no choice but resort to traditional means of communication when they need to make contact with other countries.
"It has to be through Etisalat and du, through an actual phone line, and the cost is a lot, it's not cheap. And the more we expand, the more expensive it's going to become," explained Ambareen Musa, founder and chief executive of the financial products comparison website souqalmal.com.
She added: "You will find on the mobile trying to do a Skype call over VoIP is quite difficult. You can't call an actual number. FaceTime doesn't work. As a business owner and someone who's always on the run, it's definitely a hindrance."
Ahmed Dawood, who started his PR and social media marketing company in Dubai four years ago, said the VoIP restrictions mean he is still spending thousands of dirhams to call abroad.
Dawood does not believe that easing the restrictions would alter operator's revenues as much as the TRA suggests.
He said: "I doubt if will happen soon as apparently it hurts the business interests of existing communication companies. However, if they added these services into their packages then it would benefit both users and suppliers."
The TRA declined to comment when requested by The National.