Saudi Arabia's telecommunications regulatory body, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), said in a statement yesterday that it is placing messaging applications Skype, WhatsApp and Tango under review.
The CITC did not say whether the popular messaging applications would also share the same fate as Viber, which was suspended indefinitely last week.
CITC spokesperson Sultan Al-Malik was quoted yesterday as saying: "There will be an official statement released regarding mobile applications that do not comply with existing regulations of the Kingdom.” “Appropriate action will be taken against applications or services that do not comply with regulations.” On Wednesday, the CITC suspended Viber, a popular Internet messenger application used by millions, for failing to comply with unspecified regulations.
According to reports, the suspension was effected because monitoring is difficult for the state and it deprives licensed telecom companies of revenue from international calls.
Cyprus-based Viber was popular among Arab expatriates because it has an Arabic version and works on all operating systems and wireless networks.
Local media reported earlier this year that Saudi Arabia's three main operators Saudi Telecom Co., Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) and Zain Saudi had been asked to tell the CITC if they were able to monitor or block such applications.
Conventional international calls and texts are a lucrative earner for telecom operators in Saudi Arabia, which hosts around nine million expatriates. These foreign workers are increasingly using Internet-based applications such as Viber to communicate with relatives in other countries, analysts say.