AMMAN — Jordan has no plans to block the Internet-based communication tool WhatsApp, a government official said on Sunday.
“We have not asked any of the country’s operators to block WhatsApp for any reason,” Mohammad Taani, chief commissioner of the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), told The Jordan Times.
Asked if Jordan may follow suit and block the widely used application after Saudi Arabia and Egypt announced plans to do so, he said: “We don’t coordinate with any country on this issue… We have no intention of blocking it.”
Local news websites have been reporting rumours of a possible block of WhatsApp after allegations that Education Ministry employees used the application to leak General Secondary Certificate Examination (Tawjihi) questions to students 30 minutes before a test.
According to estimates by telecom companies in Jordan, there are about two million users of WhatsApp in the Kingdom.
In early June, Saudi Arabia said it was planning to block WhatsApp within weeks if the US-based firm failed to comply with the requirements set by the Gulf kingdom’s telecom regulator.
The Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission said WhatsApp was hard for the state to monitor and deprived telecom companies of revenues from international text messages.
Also in June, Egypt’s telecom regulating body said it was considering barring mobile applications such as WhatsApp and Viber for their impact on investments and security, according to Ahram Online news website.
In Jordan, telecom operators have repeatedly stressed that using the Internet to send messages and make local and international calls is negatively impacting their revenues.
Conventional international calls and texts, which are lucrative for telecom operators, are no longer widely used among cell-phone holders in Jordan, with mobile subscriptions set to exceed 9.475 million by the end of March this year, an expert in the telecom industry told The Jordan Times on Sunday.
In Jordan, with an estimated population of around 6.5 million, several individuals carry two or more mobile phones, according to sellers.
“Whether rich or poor, Jordanians who have smartphones download applications such as WhatsApp and Viber and make international and local calls for free,” said the expert, who preferred not to be named.
“They even send text messages worldwide and locally without paying a fils. This is definitely hurting telcos’ revenues.”
Cellphone owners said using WhatsApp and other messengers such as Tango and Viber was a must every day.
“I stopped making international calls almost a year ago since I bought an iPhone and started using Viber and WhatsApp,” Omar Sabri, a University of Jordan student, said on Sunday.
“There is no need to make conventional calls and send messages as long as Viber and WhatsApp are available,” he noted.
Ethar Hamada, a secretary at an auditing company, said WhatsApp was indispensable for her work and personal life.
“It is a blessing… I chat freely all day with friends and also use WhatsApp for work. I sometimes take a picture of a circular or a document and send it to a colleague or to my boss. It’s faster than e-mails sometimes,” Hamada said.