In Qatar, where just 12% of the population is actually Qatari, VoIP services like Skype are a communication lifeline to residents. Whether you travel or work there, Qatar is now blocking Skype services. So your option are to rely on the local telecommunications service and pay extortive fees, or – use a VPN and circumvent Qatar’s ban on Skype.
In this guide, we’re going to show you how we chose the best VPNs for unblocking Skype, give you a list of our selections, then walk you through step-by-step how to unblock Skype in Qatar. Finally, we’ll give you some context on the VoIP situation in Qatar.
- 1 How to choose a good VPN
- 2 Best VPNs for Skype calling in Qatar
- 3 How to unblock Skype with your VPN
- 4 Tips for seamlessly using Skype calling once unblocked
- 5 Other benefits of using a VPN
- 6 Why you need a VPN for Skype calling in Qatar
- 7 Conclusion
How to choose a good VPN
When it comes down to researching and picking a VPN to use. There’s a lot of things to consider – security (how much do you need?), network size (how many servers should they have?), free or paid? Well, we’ll cut to the chase – here are the criteria we used to choose the best VPNs and the reasons behind each:
- Encryption – You’re going to want 256-bit AES encryption. It’s military-grade and the best available. Having powerful security like this will help keep your data, traffic, and identity safe from prying eyes, while also allowing you to get around Qatar’s blocks on Skype.
- Fast speeds – To be able to run Skype smoothly, you’re going to need fast connection speeds. All the services we included here have proven to be reliably fast.
- Device compatibility – You’re probably not just going to be using Skype on your desktop/laptop, so you need a VPN that’s supported for your other devices, too, no matter the operating system. Each VPN on this list has a wide array of devices and runs on many different operating systems, like Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iPhone, and iOS.
- No logging – It doesn’t matter how strong a VPN’s encryption is if they keep records of your metadata each time you connect. You might trust your provider, but as long as these logs exist, they are a liability and can theoretically be used to trace your identity.
- Paid – It can be tempting to choose a free VPN, but they aren’t really “free.” So-called free VPNs can’t guarantee your security because they store your data and sell it to 3rd-parties, putting you at risk. Many are even used as vehicles for malware to steal your information. A paid VPN with a strong zero-logging policy prevents this from happening and keeps you well-encrypted and safe.
Best VPNs for Skype calling in Qatar
With the new ban on Skype, the best way to unblock it is to use a VPN provider. The Qatari government itself said that, “any person or business within the State of Qatar may use VoIP services for voice calls for their own use.” So although they’ve blocked them, if you’re able to get around the block you can still use Skype.
Ergo, use a virtual private network. Here is our 2018 list of the best VPNs for unblocking Skype calling in Qatar:
ExpressVPN comes in at the top of our list. With more than 2,000 servers in 94 countries, they have a big, fast, widespread network to meet your needs. They’re lightweight, too, and among one of the fastest available, helping you stream buffer-free, download fast, and browse easily.
256-bit AES encryption with a wide variety of encryption protocols to choose from if necessary can help you get past even the toughest blocks. A DNS leak test, built-in kill switch, and zero-logging policy keeps you safe and secure. There’s no throttling of your connection with ExpressVPN’s unlimited bandwidth and they’re available for just about every software system. Worried about logs? ExpressVPN has you covered, with a policy against collecting any metadata on your traffic, DNS requests, or IP addresses.
No matter which device you make Skype calls on, you’ll find a dedicated ExpressVPN app. With a single-click interface, you can gain the protection you need without needed a degree in Computer Science.
Learn more about this great provider in our 2018 ExpressVPN review.
NordVPN has one of the biggest networks on the market, weighing in at 5,000+ servers in 62 countries. This means you’re practically guaranteed to find a server that enables crystal-clear, latency-free calls at any given time. If you feel like doing more than Skype calling, NordVPN offers an array of specialty servers that can help you with specific use-cases, like P2P, Anti-DDoS, Onion over VPN, and Obfuscated servers, to name a few.
Military-grade 256-bit AES encryption keeps you secure against virtually all penetration attempts. Meanwhile, NordVPN’s logging policy is one of the most complete in the industry: they keep zero logs on your traffic, IP address, timestamps, bandwidth, or browsing history.
NordVPN is also one of the fastest providers, and extremely reliable for bypassing VPN blockers like those Netflix puts up. Their graphical map features makes choosing a server a breeze. Dedicated software available for all major platforms.
Check out our full NordVPN review to find out more.
CyberGhosthas everything minimalist in mind, right from the beginning. Easy to install, with a colorful, simple display, CyberGhostoffers you 6 preconfigured profiles that can help you find the best server for your use-case. Alongside their 256-bit AES encryption, they also offer you toggles that can provide you with more protection against malware, ads, tracking, and malicious websites.
With more than 2,700 servers in 60 countries, an immaculate no-logging policy, unlimited bandwidth and speed, and even the ability to connect to as many as 5 devices with different operating systems at once, CyberGhost is sure to fulfill all your VPN needs.
Find out more about this provider in our 2018 CyberGhost review.
How to unblock Skype with your VPN
VPNs work by running all of your traffic and data through an encrypted tunnel that routes to a server elsewhere (the VPN’s server). You can choose where this server is located, allowing you to connect to the internet in a country where Skype calling is open and allowed. Once you connect, you appear to have that server’s IP address instead of your own, so you “look” as if you’re physically outside of Qatar and can make calls with Skype.
Here’s how to do so:
- Once you’ve chose which VPN you’re going to use, click through one of our links to access their “Plans” page. Select a plan of your choice and fill out the details provided.
- Next, download and install the VPN application to the device or devices you want to be able use Skype on.
- Launch the application and sign in using your VPN account information.
- Connect to a server that allows Skype calling. Many VPNs automatically select the fastest server nearby, so you may have to manually look through your VPNs list of servers if that one isn’t located in a place that allows skype calling.
- Now that you’re connected, before you continue, run a quick test: open your web browser and visit ipleak.net. The site will automatically run an IP address lookup. When this completes, you should see a box near the top of the screen that says “My IP Addresses.” Just underneath it should say a country other than that you’re sitting in – i.e. if you connected to a server in the US, the country under the box should say “United States.” If you do, you’re VPN has successfully connected and you’re good to go.
Tips for seamlessly using Skype calling once unblocked
Once you’ve successfully unblocked Skype, make sure you keep these tips in mind to optimize your Skype calls:
- Pick a VPN location as nearby as possible – this will give you the best speeds. Using a VPN in the U.S. (per our example) may not the be best choice in Qatar, since it’s a great distance away. A closer country might be more appropriate.
- Use the strongest internet connection you can find. This could be the best Wi-Fi signal available or even an ethernet cable.
- Use the latest version of Skype. Since it’s been blocked, you may have missed an update since you last used Skype. Make sure the person you’re calling is using the latest version, too.
- Make sure your camera, microphone, and speakers are working and aren’t muted.
- Finally, close any other apps or browser that could be eating up bandwidth so your connection on Skype doesn’t lag or fail.
Other benefits of using a VPN
Even if you’re just investing in a VPN for Skype-usage, there are numerous other benefits you can gain from using a VPN:
Enhance your privacy and security
Whether you like to surf, browse, or complete online transactions, you expose yourself to possible monitoring and hackers every time you access the internet and input personal information. While many websites do their best to be secure, they aren’t always successful.
Many ISPs – especially government-controlled ones – also monitor your internet usage, traffic, and bandwidth. This allows them to track, log, and store your info – which can then be sold to 3rd-parties, which is a common practice. And, they can throttle your connection if you use too much bandwidth.
But, when you use a VPN your location is masked, preventing your ISP from telling what your traffic is or where it’s coming from – and if they can’t see it, they can’t slow it down. Hackers have difficulty seeing your data, too, due to the encryption that wraps it up securely. VPNs give you back a measure of privacy that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
If you like to view streaming content from services like Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, or YouTube, you’ll find some major restrictions. These services are required to restrict content based of the user’s country of origin. This means that if you’re from the U.K., but are living in Qatar, you won’t be able to view your home country’s content.
But you can get around this with a VPN. Simple select a server located in the U.K., and access your favorite content. Although some of these services employ VPN-blockers to try to stop this, VPN providers work constantly to continue to get past these.
Access home accounts
Again, if you’re an expatriate working or living in Qatar and are maintaining bank accounts, credit cards, etc. in your home country, you may have trouble accessing them. For example, bank accounts employ anti-fraud measures. Thus, your bank may block access to your account if it sees that your connection originates in Qatar.
Use a VPN, though, and you can appear to be sitting in a café in your home country and access any of your home accounts with ease.
Punch through censorship
While most of Qatar’s censored content is related to pornographic material, the government maintains stricter parameters for what falls under this umbrella. Many dating services and homosexual content are also blocked, which results in many sites with no offensive content being censored. Political censorship also happens. With a VPN, you can dodge these censorships and have access to the free and open internet.
Why you need a VPN for Skype calling in Qatar
After putting the ban on Skype and other VoIP services, the Qatari government released a vague statement as to why, saying, “there are no laws or rules that prohibit the use of [VoIP] technology within the State of Qatar” but, Qatari law makes “it illegal for any person to provide telecommunication services to the public for a direct or indirect fee without a license issued by ictQATAR for that purpose.”
What that means is that while individuals can useVoIP services like Skype, Skype and other VoIP providers can’t sell their service in Qatar. With just two such services licensed (state-controlled Qatar Telecom and Vodafone Qatar), it’s rumored that this is being done to help QTel monopolize the lucrative long-distance phone call market.
Using a VPN allows you to regain control over who you contact, and how. Whether you’re a journalist breaking a sensitive story, transmitting vital business data, or simply want to talk to your friends and family back home, it is essential to always have access to modes of communication you can rely upon and trust.
Whether you’re a resident with family outside of Qatar, or an expatriate living and working there – the Skype ban affects you. Thankfully, you can use a VPN to legally unblock Skype and get back to connecting with family and friends – at a much more affordable rate than long-distance calling.
Are you currently living or working in Qatar? Has the ban on VoiP services, and Skype in particular, affected you? What has your experience been? Tell us your story in the comments section.