Government censorship is nothing new. It might seem like governments are cracking down more frequently on free and open communication channels but they’ve always done this. It’s just more noticeable in the digital age because communication is so much faster. When a communication channel breaks down, people notice it more quickly. The people in Qatar did notice when, during the past few weeks, VOIP apps like Skype and Whatsapp stopped working. It seems the government has banned these two apps though there isn’t any official confirmation and ISPs are denying any role in the Qatar VOIP ban.
Qatar Blocks VOIP Apps
This ban has been on-going since early September. According to Doha News, the problem started early in this month with no explanation behind the cause. It appears FaceTime isn’t working either though, it may not be related to this particular ban. In countries like UAE, FaceTime is banned altogether and the iPhones sold there simply do not have the app. Perhaps Qatar is implementing something similar. Even if that were true, the disruption in Skype and Whatsapp cannot be overlooked. Whatsapp has had global service problems this past month but it was nothing like what people in Qatar are experiencing at the moment. Qatar’s Communications Regulatory Authority promised to look into the matter but has remained silent since.
While it appears that most users are experiencing trouble with Skype and Whatsapp, other messaging services like Facebook Messenger have also been effected.
Is there a problem w/video call in #Qatar? FaceTime, FB Messenger and Skype are not working @OoredooQatar please check!
— YaaahhhDoha (@YaaahhhDoha) September 7, 2017
It’s not clear why Skype has been blocked though, Whatsapp might have come under scrutiny because of its end-to-end encryption that prevents governments from intercepting messages. VOIP services are banned in religiously conservative countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE but Qatar has never had a problem with them in the past. At present, there doesn’t seem to be any reason that might motivate the government to consider a ban on these services either.
Unblock the Qatar VOIP ban with a VPN
Users in Qatar have been getting around the VOIP ban by using VPNs. VPNs are already popular in the country among users who seek to access regionally restricted content on services like HBO Go and Netflix. It seems that while VOIP services have been blocked, many VPN services in Qatar continue to work without a hitch. They are, therefore, one of the simplest ways to get around the VOIP ban.
If you’re trying to make voice or video calls, you need a VPN service that doesn’t throttle speeds and that has a reliable connection. You also need the connection speed to remain constant and not fluctuate too much or it will impact the call quality. The VPN service should work on both desktop and mobile so that you can use your VOIP service of choice on the go. Lastly, if this does turn out to be a government initiated ban, you want to use a service that can protect your privacy as well.
Best VPNs for Qatar
ExpressVPN is an old and reliable VPN services that is used all over the world to circumvent regional restrictions and government bans alike. It has servers in countries like USA, UK, Hong Kong, Germany, Japan, and Australia. The service is particularly known for its high speed and reliable connection. It’s the go-to service for anyone looking to stream online media which means it is more than capable of handling voice and video calls.
NordVPN has more servers than any other VPN service currently in operation. That is its strong suite and when it comes to government sanctioned bans, you need just such a service to get around it. Of course, it’s also very fast and above all, it has a strict zero-logging policy which means your browsing is kept private. It has apps for all major desktop and mobile platforms so regardless which device you want to use Skype or Whatsapp on, NordVPN has you covered.
Are VPNs Legal In Qatar?
As mentioned earlier, people in Qatar have been using VPNs for a long time and for a whole host of services. They are perfectly legal in the country with just one stipulation; you cannot use them to do anything that is illegal in the country. For example, if the government rules that accessing Wikipedia is illegal, then using a VPN to access it might be construed as a crime. Since there is no official statement on the Qatar VOIP ban from the government, using a VPN to access Skype and Whatsapp is perfectly legal.