The UAE has blocked VoIP services including Skype—the free internet calling app—but users do have other options! Etisalat and du, telecom service providers for UAE subscribers, have voice and video call services at a fixed monthly charge, through which users can connect with friends and family who have downloaded the same VoIP-based apps—i.e. BOTIM and C’Me. These services have met the UAE regulatory framework requirements and are the only two legal ways for people to call through the Internet. The apps are available for IPhones and Android phones.
The monthly fee range from Dh50 for a single device to Dh100 for the entire family, as reported the Khaleej Times.
Meanwhile, several users have claimed that the recent Skype ban coincides with the campaign to encourage users to pay for these apps and Skype itself mentions on its website that there is ‘very little it can do about this situation’.
The good news, however is that users in the UAE can still technically use a VoIP service and still have a choice of provider for services to match their needs while on the move.
Why do some countries ban Skype? Some users believe that as Skype offers a free option for video calls, some telecom companies fear the loss of revenue. This might definitely be a reason, but there are also ‘security purposes’ that have some governments prevent some VoIP services from running in their countries. Then there are often ‘licensing roadblocks’ with some VoIP providers who are unable to meet the requirements to obtain license from Telecommunication Regulatory Authorities.
In fact, in official statements, both UAE’s telecom providers Etisalat and du stated that unlicensed and unauthorized Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Services are not supported in the UAE because they “fall under the classification of prohibited contents as per the United Arab Emirates’ Regulatory Framework.” The VoIP-based apps BOTIM and C’Me provide the only allowed unlimited voice and video call services.
That Skype’s and other foreign companies’ VoIP services are not allowed in the UAE is not exactly good news for all those expatriates and locals that are used to interact and communicate with family and friends through these options. It’s important to remind also that although, some users try to bypass the block using a VPN, this can be considered illegal in the UAE, tells Gareth Kurt Warren, Gulf News Editor – Guides. Both “Du and Etisalat have VPN packages that allow users to use mobile data and/or service-provider Wi-Fi to connect and make video/voice calls internationally as long as the required apps are available on both ends,” mentions Gulf News, and these are the only legal options.
For the moment, an online campaign has started to urge a rethinking of the current policy towards VoIP services in the UAE.