FILE PHOTO: An illustration photo shows a man holding a smart phone with a Facebook logo as its screen wallpaper in front of a WhatsApp messenger logo.

INTERNATIONAL - Saudi Arabia will remove its ban on internet phone calls today, a government spokesperson said, in a bid to stimulate online business as the kingdom looks to boost non-oil revenue. 

All online voice and video call services such as Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp that satisfy regulatory requirements will become accessible at midnight, Adel Abu Hameed, spokesperson for the telecoms regulator CITC said on Twitter yesterday. 

The lifting of the ban could pinch Saudi Arabia’s three main telecommunications operators - Saudi Telecom, Etihad Etisalat and Zain Saudi - which earn substantial revenue from international phone and text calls made by the millions of expatriates living in the kingdom. 

The policy reversal comes as part of the government’s broad reform programme to diversify revenue sources as oil prices have hit the finances of the world’s top exporter. Digital transformation is one of the key kick-starters for the Saudi economy, as it will incentivise the growth of internet-based businesses.