Browsing 'voip' News

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Popular video and voice calling service Skype has confirmed that it is now blocked in Qatar.

In a post on its FAQ pages, the company said that usage of the app was being stopped by ISPs (internet service providers) in Qatar.

Stating that there was “very little Skype can do about this situation,” it added:

“The best course of action would be for you to speak to your ISP and ask why they are blocking Skype and request that they unblock our site and services.”

Skype’s statement follows a message from Viber to its users last month stating that the service was “now unblocked” following a software update:

The statements from Skype and Viber finally offer some insight into the widespread problems people are having with VoIP apps in Qatar.

Residents first started noticing issues when trying to use Whatsapp, Viber, Skype and Facetime in late August, shortly before Eid.

No public announcement

Despite repeated requests from Doha News for comment, Qatar’s two ISPs, Ooredoo and Vodafone, have remained silent on the VoIP issue.

Vodafone / Facebook

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However, Ooredoo did release a statement over the Eid break denying that it was behind the problem:

“Quality assurance for calling using these apps is out of Ooredoo’s control. However, we can guarantee that the issues are not from Ooredoo Super net. Eid Mubarak.”

Meanwhile, Qatar’s telecoms regulator, the CRA, initially told the Gulf Times that it had launched an investigation into the issues.

However, it has made no further comment and has not responded to any of Doha News’ requests for more information.

Facetime developer Apple and the team behind Viber have also not yet responded.

Ongoing frustration

For the vast majority of Qatar’s residents, VoIP is a lifeline, providing a cheap, easy way to stay in touch with loved ones who don’t live in the country.

Many people have taken to social media in recent weeks pleading for answers from their ISPs:

However, although the most popular apps have stopped working, there do seem to be some workarounds.

Skype link to QNA hack

It remains unclear why Qatar ISPs have blocked VoIP services.

But the government did say that the hacking of Qatar News Agency earlier this year involved the use of Skype.

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The planting of a fake news story on QNA triggered the current GCC crisis. In a statement about it, the Ministry of Interior said:

“On April 22, the hacker exploited a vulnerability in the website, installed the malicious programs and intruded into the network.

The vulnerability was shared with another person via Skype, who accessed it at 5:47 am from an IP address of one of the siege.”

Thoughts?

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Thousands of Qatar residents have been struggling to use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services like Skype, Facetime and Whatsapp over the past few weeks.

The cause of the problem remains a mystery. While residents await clarification about what’s going on, some have been circumventing VoIP problems by using a VPN.

Others have found that a handful of less commonly known services still work. Here are some users’ suggestions:

Try a VPN

VPNs (virtual private networks) allow you to encrypt your internet activity, and disguise your physical location.

Unlike in the UAE, VPNs are not illegal in Qatar, as long as you don’t use them for activities that break the country’s laws.

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Some Qatar residents already use VPNs to access country-specific TV and movie streaming services and local news websites.

They are now finding that popular VoIP services work when a VPN is used on their PCs, phones and tablets.

Some VPNs are free and others charge a fee. Here’s a list of some of the most popular ones.

Notably however, some Qatar users have complained lately about trouble with their VPN services, so you may have to try a few before one works.

Get Google Duo

Even though Whatsapp etc are not working, some VoIP apps appear to be holding up well at the moment.

Google

Google Duo

The first is Google Duo, Google’s encrypted video chat app.

Available for both Apple and Android, Google says it’s “simple and reliable” and the “highest quality one-to-one video calling app on the market.”

…. Or IMO

IMO / Google Play

IMO is available for both Apple and Android

VoIP app IMO is also available for Apple and Android, and so far, our readers say it’s working for them in Qatar.

Reviews on the Google Play store are a bit mixed, however – with some saying that connections can be a bit iffy.

Let us know if this encrypted service works for you.

…or Telegram

The popular messaging app Telegram introduced voice calls earlier this year, and readers report that this service still seems to be working.

Telegram

Telegram

You can’t make live video calls with it, but you can send video messages instead.

Telegram promises to be “fast, simple and free” and the encrypted service also allows you to create massive group chats, should you wish.

Silence from authorities

People began complaining about the outages shortly before Eid.

So far, Qatar’s two telecom companies Ooredoo and Vodafone, as well as official government sources, have not shed any light on the problem.

This has been frustrating for the many Qatar residents who rely on VoIP as a cost-effective, instant and reassuring way to keep in touch with loved ones abroad.

How are these services working for you? Thoughts?

We have spent billions on getting a telecom licence in Qatar, but our business is affected by illegal services like VoIP. We know it’s a boon for expatriates but it is illegal. It is time that ictQatar intervened and found ways to stop its use.

-Richard Daly, outgoing Vodafone Qatar CEO, who on Monday lambasted the widespread use of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) here, calling it a threat to telecom companies, as quoted in the Qatar Tribune.

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When asked by journalists whether Qatar should follow the UAE’s lead and ban VoIP calls (including via Skype and Vonage) altogether, Daly said:

“All we want is that our business should not be affected by service providers who are not legal.”

According to a 2008 statement clarifying the government’s position on VoIP, ictQatar said the technology, which allows people to make telephone calls over the internet, is not prohibited in Qatar. But it added:

The Telecommunications Law 34 of 2006 does, however, make it illegal for any person to provide telecommunications services to the public for a direct or indirect fee without a license issued by ictQATAR for that purpose.

Apparently, those who do offer such services, whether based here or abroad, are formidable competition to the two licensed telecom providers here, Ooredoo and Vodafone.

Thoughts on this?

Credit: Photo by Dan Correia