For people looking to take advantage of Skype’s cheap internet phone rates, the message is: nothing has changed. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Earlier this week, Etisalat and du confirmed the ban on Skype in the UAE. In official statements, both providers stated that unlicensed and unauthorized Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Services are not supported in the UAE.

Skype now shares the same fate as other services such as Google’s Duo, Apple’s Facetime and WhatsApp’s Calling.

In an earlier statement, UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) confirmed that any applications or services of this type must comply with the applicable regulatory framework in the country. Access to such VoIP services are still a prerogative of the licensed providers who reserve the right to provide such services through their networks. And companies wishing to offer such services must co-ordinate with the licensed telecom providers in the UAE.

Legal Alternatives to Skype in the UAE

In order to use VoIP services legally, both telecom providers have suggested VoIP-based apps BOTIM and C’Me. These apps are now both added as part of their “unlimited” voice and video call services.

Here’s how you can get it.

Starting at a monthly fee of Dh50 for mobile users, Etisalat users can subscribe by sending an SMS ‘ICP’ to 1012 or through their Etisalat app. While du users can SMS ‘Netcall’ to 1355.

More info on Etisalat’s services here, and you can head here for du's.

Once you have subscribed, you can download the app from here:

BOTIM: iPhone or Android
C’Me: iPhone or Android

Things to know

 If you subscribe to this service from your home’s Wi-Fi account, be it Etisalat’s eLife or du’s home services, note that all devices connected to the home Wi-Fi will have unlimited access to the app.

(This seems like a much better option if you make the majority of your calls from your home. However charges are Dh100 per month, for both Etisalat and du.)

 Once you purchase the Plan, you can make video or voice calls to any other user anywhere in the world. However those users need to have either BOTIM or C’ME installed on their device as well.

• Etisalat have noted that these fees are excluding the 5 per cent VAT charge.

• Be reminded that when not connected to a Wi-Fi network, your mobile data usage will be charged.

• With regard to approximate data usage, you could expect to spend about 2MB of your data for a 10-minute voice call. A 10-minute video call would eat up approx. 35MB of data. Again, this depends on the model and conditions of your handset.

• The VPN debate. While using Virtual Private Networks can have its benefits, the use of the technology can be considered illegal in the UAE. Private individuals, aside from corporate organisations, don’t run the risk of going to jail and paying a fine as long as they don’t use VPN to commit a crime.

However, according to the TRA’s internet guidelines on prohibited content, point 14 on illegal communication services, states, “This category includes internet content that promotes or allows access to illegal communication services according to a regulation or decision by the competent authority.”