Viber vows to hit back in Saudi Arabia access row

10 June 2013 | Kavit Majithia


Online messaging company Viber has vowed to restore its services in Saudi Arabia after access to the application was blocked by regulators.

Disruptions have been caused to the service in a number of Middle Eastern countries, including the UAE and Iran, and the company’s chief executive and founder, Talmon Marco, has vowed to find a solution to reconnect the service in Saudi Arabia.

Viber’s issues in Saudi Arabia have stemmed from an increase in defence initiatives by governments over communications companies, in the wake of an increasing threat from hackers against sensitive data.

A reported 10 million users are now unable to access Viber in Saudi Arabia, and Marco vowed to find a partial solution within weeks. “We are taking it personally, put it this way,” he said. “People in Saudi Arabia are extremely upset about it.”

The service was blocked by Saudi’s telecoms regulator last week after allegedly failing to comply with telecoms rules. Service providers and mobile companies were also ordered to ensure that telecoms applications, like Viber, comply with the law.

According to the Financial Times, Viber was not directly approached by the Saudi government, but operators in the Kingdom were asked how the application works.

Viber is deemed as popular in the country because it is a free and private service, and alternatives such as traditional voice calls are largely expensive and subject to state monitoring.

Skype has also come under scrutiny in Saudi Arabia because it is another tool to take revenue away from the country’s operators.