If you live in the UAE, you’ve most likely experienced the frustration of not being able to access the free popular video call services, such as Skype, that used to be available. Getting a few tips on how to use video calls in the UAE goes a long way when your attempts to connect via Skype fail.
But that’s only the beginning of your frustration. You’ll find that other popular video calling apps like Whatsapp, Messenger, and Viber are not working either. If you need to call a client, read on and find out how you can make video calls in Dubai or other city-states of UAE.
In this article, we’ll cover the following:
Why Are Popular Video Calls Banned in Dubai?
The restriction of video calling apps has caused massive frustration and outrage for locals and travellers in Dubai alike. Business owners are frustrated with the lack of options to conduct interviews and calls over VoIP apps.
In April 2019, Skype joined the growing list of video calling apps that are banned in the UAE. If you attempt a call through Skype, you’ll experience a ridiculously bad connection that makes any conversation impossible on the app.
Common sense dictates that the convenience of free video calling apps like Skype are driving business and countries forward. So, why is the UAE keen on putting a block on these video call apps?
Two major telcos dominate the UAE, namely Etisalat and Du. The official reason for this clamp-down, that is covered under the United Arab Emirates Regulatory Framework, is that unlicensed VoIP services are prohibited in the UAE.
However, the public view is that the law has been passed to allow a monopoly of the VoIP services by local providers, which are none other than Etisalat and Du. Both providers offer “licensed” VoIP apps through their subscriptions.
Often, users are reduced to options like BotIM, C’Me, Yzer, and HIU messenger, which are bundled under subscriptions starting from AED50 per month ($13.60 per month)—a sizeable monthly fee!
Three Ways to Make Free Video Calls in the UAE
The notion of paying for VoIP services that are usually free in other parts of the world can be frustrating if you’re in the UAE. If you’re hoping to save some money while enjoying the convenience of video calls, here are three viable options:
1. Use A VPN
The ISPs in the UAE blocks services to apps like Skype by identifying the IP address of the connecting users. Theoretically, a VPN or Virtual Private Network allows you to mask your IP address with a different one. If you’re connected to a VPN server in the US, your device will be perceived as located in the US and escaped the block on VoIP services.
However, not all VPNs are functional in the UAE as the ISPs have identified and blocked incoming connections from VPN servers. When you’re selecting a VPN provider, you’ll need to ensure it is fully-encrypted, does not keep logs, and has a reasonably fast connection for VoIP calls to work.
There are also debates going on about the legality of using a VPN in the UAE. The government has harsh laws for using a fake IP address to commit or hide criminal activities. According to a prominent law firm in the Middle-East, it’s only a crime when the VPN is used for illegitimate purposes.
Here are some VPNs that are functional in the UAE:
|Voice call-friendly connection speed||✅||✅||✅||✅|
|No of devices||5||Unlimited||6||10|
|Supports chain VPN connections||No||Yes (Multihop)||Yes (Double VPN)||No|
|$8.32 – $12.95||$1.99 – $11.95||$3.49 – $11.95||$3.33 – $9.95|
2. Use Assguard
Assguard is an app that is built from the technology and protocols that drive a VPN. It’s developed specifically for users in the UAE. Like a VPN, it hides your IP address and performs other network manipulations to access content and services blocked in the UAE.
By installing Assguard, you’re able to surf the web anonymously, and use apps like Skype or Whatsapp for calls. This can be done by activating the respective controls instead of going through lengthy setups.
The app is available for iOS and Android, while developments for Windows, Mac, and Android are in progress. You can use Assguard with all of its features for free within the 7-day trial period. To continue using the app, you’ll need to pay a $7.99 monthly subscription.
3. Use local services
If you’re already subscribing to either Etisalat or Du, you could use the supported VoIP apps provided by the telcos. The more popular apps are:
- HIU Messenger
Note that using these apps is only possible when subscribing to a telco plan.
Also, new kid on the block, ToTok, a video call app which merges with BotIM, now allows users in UAE to make video calls without paying any subscription fees. It is unknown if ToTok will continue to provide free calls in the UAE but many users have ditched BotIM in favor of it.
Despite news that Microsoft and Apple are holding talks with the UAE to lift bans on Skype and Facetime, users in the country are limited in their options in making video calls. Lacking access to free video calls can put businesses at a disadvantage.
Using local services like BotIM and C’ME requires the same app to be installed on the recipient’s device. This can be a hassle if you’re calling international users. If you’re used to making video calls on Skype or Whatsapp, installing a VPN allows you to make calls with ease.
Alternatively, try out ToTok while it’s still available for free.