I remember my first visit to Dubai on New Year's Eve in 2019, like it was yesterday. After buying a tourist SIM card, I tried to call my family through WhatsApp, I was disappointed to find that the calls would not go through. At first, I thought it was just network congestion, but after several days of failed attempts, I set out to research. What I discovered was quite surprising - not only WhatsApp calls in Dubai are banned, but also other VoIP services such as FaceTime, Viber, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, and Skype.
In this blog post, I will share with you the latest information on WhatsApp calls in the UAE. I will discuss the reasons behind the restrictions, suggest alternative applications for internet calling, explain how to unblock WhatsApp calls and highlight the potential risks of using VPNs. So, sit back and let me take you on a journey to discover the ins and outs of internet calling in UAE.
Why WhatsApp Calls in Dubai are Banned?
The Dubai government has provided an explanation for why WhatsApp and other VoIP calls are prohibited in the city - citing security as the main reason. However, during my one year of residing in Dubai, I have heard additional justifications beyond this:
For safety reasons, Dubai intends to monitor VOIP calls. However, companies such as WhatsApp, Skype, and Apple may not approve due to privacy concerns. This could lead to them not operating in the country. The UAE’s Telecommunications And Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) maintains:
“VoIP services are still a prerogative of the licensed providers who reserve the right to provide such services through their networks. TDRA, at its sole discretion, may provide a VoIP exemption approval to allow VoIP applications in the UAE, taking into consideration the users and market demands and needs.”
In Dubai, there are only two companies registered to provide telecommunication services: Du (in partnership with Virgin Mobile UAE) and Etisalat. Despite the prohibition of most voice calling apps, the majority of the UAE’s population relies on billed services. As a result, they are creating a vast market for telecommunication firms. Additionally, the United Arab Emirates receives 5% in taxes from this industry.
To Attract Investors
Some believe that Dubai has banned VoIP services with the aim of promoting telecom services from companies like Microsoft, which is expected to create more job opportunities.
Video Calling Apps That Work in UAE
If you're wondering how to video call in the UAE, then below is a list of currently available VoIP applications permitted in the country.
This is my go-to internet calling app in Dubai. It has all the same features as WhatsApp without restrictions. All my friends and family from all over the world are forced to use this to stay in touch with me.
Etisalat’s voice and video call app without the need for a subscription.
UAE residents can download the app for voice and video calls on desktop and mobile devices.
The most popular work-from-home app in UAE.
Have one-on-one conversations using audio, video, chat, and screen-sharing features. Download the app on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Free video conferencing app available for download on desktop, iOS, and Android platforms. Its usage has significantly increased among individuals and businesses in the UAE. Can be used for meetings only.
Skype for Business
The free download includes instant messaging (IM), audio and video calls, online meetings, presence information, and sharing capabilities.
And Many More
Blackboard, Cisco Webex, Avaya Spaces, BlueJeans, Slack, Etisalat Cloud Talk Meeting, Matrx, Totok, Empay, Sanad, Comera.
How to Unblock WhatsApp in Dubai?
There are limited ways to unlock WhatsApp in Dubai, but the easiest solution is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN encrypts traffic, making it impossible to track its origin.
VPNs to unlock Whatsapp in Dubai
A speedy and privacy-conscious VPN with a huge server network that can unblock WhatsApp in Dubai and the UAE. It includes advanced security features and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
The top VPN for WhatsApp calling in the UAE, with unlimited connections, fast speeds, and high security, is Surfshark.
Services are both fast and reliable, and they prioritize the safety and confidentiality of their client’s information with exceptional security measures.
Risks of using VPN in UAE
The TDRA is responsible for determining what kind of content should be prohibited and inaccessible in the UAE. Any online material that goes against the country’s values, safety, or regulations is strictly forbidden. This includes activities like accessing blocked websites, sharing inappropriate images, spreading false news, disclosing private information, dealing with drugs, hacking, and promoting violence or hatred. It is important to note that using a VPN to bypass blocked content is also prohibited in the UAE.
What is the Punishment for Using a VPN in UAE?
If you're caught using a personal VPN in the UAE, you could face serious consequences. This includes heavy fines and, if you're just visiting, you might even be sent back to your home country.
To sum up, Dubai is a center of modernity and innovation, but it has specific regulations and guidelines, particularly for internet calling. WhatsApp and other VoIP services are still limited due to different reasons, such as security concerns and economic interests. Nevertheless, there are authorized options for residents and visitors to remain connected. If you're thinking of using a VPN to avoid these limitations, it is important to be careful, as there are severe penalties for breaching the rules. Always keep yourself informed and follow the local laws to have a trouble-free experience in the UAE.
Have you ever had trouble making WhatsApp calls in Dubai? We'd love to hear your perspective! Share your thoughts in the comments below.