The following statements are a clarification of the legal position from the Supreme Council for Information and Communications Technology regarding Qatar’s VoIP ban
“VoIP is a technology for the delivery of voice services using existing internet infrastructure and services. There are no laws or rules that prohibit the use of such technology within the State of Qatar” (Ministry of Transport and Communication Online Website).
“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” (Ministry of Transport and Communication Online Website).
“Currently, the only two entities licensed by ictQATAR to provide such voice services to the public in Qatar are Qatar Telecom (QTel) Q.S.C. and Vodafone Qatar Q.S.C” (Ministry of Transport and Communication Online Website ).
Okay, so what does this mean in English?
Well, let’s first let make sure you understand what the Voice Over Internet Ban (VoIP) is. Since the 2017 blockade, Qatar has prevented residents living in Qatar to use voice apps such as Viber, Whatsapp Calling, FaceTime, Skype and Duo.
At the very start of the ban, many residents pointed blame at the country’s only two internet service providers, Ooredoo and Vodafone.
Later, there was a another statement from the service company. “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” (Ooredoo Qatar).
Microsoft’s Skype did comment on it’s FAQ website about the ban and told it’s users, “It has been brought to our attention that our website and services have been blocked by the ISPs in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. That means you won’t be able to use Skype in the United Arab Emirates or Qatar. Unfortunately, there is very little Skype can do about this situation. 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” (Microsoft).
So what does this all mean? Well, Qatar’s government is banning VoIP apps like Skype and FaceTime because these companies techinically don’t have the licenses to operate in the country. To say if they need to, is another question for another journalist. However, Qatar’s government legally allows residents to use these apps through VPN.
So what’s the point of the ban? I don’t even know to be honest.
According to priyadsouza, the population of Qatar stands at 2.6 million people ). The country is growing at a rapid growth. However out of those 2.8 million people, only 330,000 are Qatari. (priyadsouza)
As the country develops economically, so will the demographics and Qatar being a temporary home for many foreigners including myself, apps like FaceTime, WhatsApp and Skype are essential for our stay. The conversation that is needed for the ministry is one that matters for now and in the future of Qatari Residents. With permission to use VPN, what is the point of banning these apps when they’re doing a service for everyone living here. Qatar is currently in a diplomatic blockade, where locals cannot visit there loved ones next door, so the significance of this discussion is important not just for the expats living here. As the 2022 World Cup draws near, I do believe the Qatari government will make the right changes to have the individuals that are living or coming to visit the country, live more comfortably.