UAE authorities clamp down on Skype

The web site of the popular consumer VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) company Skype has been blocked in the UAE, angering expatriates who have been using the firm's service to save money on international phone calls.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  May 3, 2005

The web site of the popular consumer VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) company Skype has been blocked in the UAE, angering expatriates who have been using the firm’s service to save money on international phone calls. In a move that has long been expected by Windows Middle East, access to the entire skype.com web site has been prohibited across the UAE, meaning users who log on from outside the country’s free zones now see a ‘Site Blocked’ message when trying to access any page on Skype's site. Skype is the latest in a line of VoIP sites to be blocked in the UAE as those of other VoIP specialists such as Net2Phone have been disallowed for some time. State-owned Etisalat - the country’s only fixed line operator –claims it did not ban Skype, but that the decision was made instead by the Dubai government. “It’s illegal to use voice over IP in the UAE and it is left to the regulatory authorities to allow or disallow such things,” Ahmed Bin Ali, public relations manager at Etisalat, told ITP Business. However, Bin Ali went on to admit that he didn’t know why a technology that is legal across most of the world had been banned in the UAE. “I don’t have the answer. Up ‘til now the technology itself has not been standardised,” he added. Coincidentally, the Skype block comes as Etisalat itself prepares to launch its own VoIP service later this year. However, when quizzed on whether Etisalat might have been using its UAE government connections to ban VoIP competitors in advance, Bin Ali claimed this wasn’t the case. “That’s not a fair [accusation],” he said. “It (Skype) has been blocked because it is illegal to operate.” Skype works by offering users a downloadable software program, which in turn can – or could - be used to call other Skype-enabled users for free (from PC to PC). The firm’s SkypeOut service meanwhile offers additional PC-to-phone functionality (using pre-paid Skype credit). Skype has also recently begun trialing SkypeIn. This gives subscribers a US, European or Hong Kong registered landline number, which their friends can then dial before being patched through to the receiver’s Skype account. This effectively helps friends and family of international Skype users slash the costs of phoning them. Although Skype.com is now blocked across the UAE, Windows Middle East has discovered that users who have previously downloaded Skype software can still use this to call both Skype-enabled PCs and landline telephones. The Skype restriction comes more into play when users need to access skype.com to buy extras such as SkypeOut credit, but find this is now impossible unless logging on from a free zone site. Web sites that offer Skype’s VoIP software as a free download, such as www.download.com, were still accessible at the time of writing.

3720 days ago
PB

When traveling I use a VPN account with http://www.strongvpn.com to prevent these controls. I love my Skype and having a VPN account is a easy solution. They can't control this.

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