Last week, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) implemented a new federal law instituting large fines for using a VPN in the country. This law is among a “series of new federal laws relating to IT crimes,” and can impose a hefty fine of up to almost half a million USD ($545,000) for using a VPN or proxy service for a “fraudulent” purpose. A fraudulent purpose is loosely defined, and includes using a VPN to access blocked services or content. The new law aims to stop people from using free VOIP apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat and Viber, which are regulated and blocked within the country. These apps allow people to communicate for free over the Internet.
Telecommunications within the United Arab Emirates are highly regulated, with two companies exerting complete control. These companies, Etisalat and du, are the only two companies with licenses to offer commercial VOIP services. This offers them a monopoly on expensive voice call services within the country. These new laws aim to force consumers to utilize one of these two telecommunications providers, allowing them to profit.
This law will have far-reaching consequences, as 88% of the country’s population is expats and many use VOIP services to stay in touch with friends and families abroad. These services are sometimes used for business purposes as well. The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the UAE provided more clarity into the regulations, which can be viewed here.
As a company that believes in a private, secure and free Internet experience for users around the world, we are concerned by this regulation of VOIP in the UAE. We believe everyone should be able to communicate using the services and applications they choose, and are never in favor of increasing censorship. For VyprVPN users concerned about VPN use, we urge you to check your local regulations when making decisions about whether or not to use the service.