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10 December, 2005

The "threat" of Skype

It is interesting to see different nations' reactions to the "threat" of Skype. Yahoo and British Telecom, for example, are "focusing heavily" on new broadband and voice services for customers:

"To kick start the battle against Skype, [BT] has announced that it will be offering free calls throughout the festive holiday to any landline in 30 different countries."

By contrast, UAE state monopoly telco Etisalat plans to invest its money into a system that will block Skype:

Dubai: Etisalat is in negotiations with a UK-based company to purchase a system that could block all voice over internet calls. Currently, Skype bypasses network proxys, allowing individuals to talk or exchange information undetected. Bitek has two systems Snyper and Guardian which can block Skype.

This really says it all, doesn't it? In terms of advanced technologies, customer satisfaction, progress, openness, and universal communications that are affordable for everyone, Etisalat doesn't give a flying piece of camel dung.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Etishite does it again. Millions of dollars are going to go into Skype blocking software/hardware that will assure UAE customers to remain on the fringes of modern telecomm technologies and deprived (again) of it's benefits.

Bring it on!

10 December, 2005 02:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you suppose this is the reason they're so keen on maintaining the proxy?

10 December, 2005 02:37  
Blogger BuJ said...

SD, nice blog as usual, and the style again is very flowing and nice to read...however given recent events (sorrydubai) i would have thought that you might post on anything but ET-Salat

10 December, 2005 04:50  
Blogger Parv said...

Well noted, SD. Just wish it would lead to a more positive action, rather than a weak defence tactic.

Speaking of which, has anyone heard from FYH? In addition to being blocked, it appears he's taken his blog off completely.

10 December, 2005 07:38  
Blogger One Nine Seven One said...

BT is going to be fighting a loosing battle against Skype. From what I remember, British Telecom's service was only one notch above Etisalat's; in other words it is not very good and it is even more expensive...
The main difference between the two companies is that BT no longer has a monopoly and Etisalat still does. This is the only reason why I can see a difference in approach to dealing with Skype. If the situation was reversed and the communications market environment was the same, BT would be behaving exactly in the same way Etisalat are and vice versa.

10 December, 2005 08:35  
Blogger 3omani said...

So much for a competent economy, a "model for the region". Why doesn't the WTO intervene? Isn't this a huge violation?

10 December, 2005 08:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BT is beginning to see the light in terms of their future business. I think it was the CEO of CISCO who said that the future for telecom companies is not voice but data, and that in future they would carry voice calls for free.

10 December, 2005 09:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quote from the GulfNews: "A Bitek study found that uncontrolled VoIP traffic represents global losses ranging from $16 million to $100 million (Dh58.4 to Dh365 million) annually.

For countries with nationally regulated telecoms, this is a significant figure said Butler. "One Gulf country who we are currently in discussions with said they had losses of $200 million a year."

- So it turns out Etisalad is doing all the evil to protect and maintain the already heavy flow of profits. ( $2.5 billion? )

BTW, where is Etisalad's main headquarters? It's more likely to be in Sharjah, because that's the place where all the weird actions are keen to taken.

10 December, 2005 09:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can anyone point me to the link where I can start my petitioning campaign on this issue to WTO?

10 December, 2005 09:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How will this change when the new telco company (TECOM one whose name I've forgotten) gets its licence?

10 December, 2005 09:59  
Blogger samuraisam said...

it wont.
the new telco is under the directives of the TRA much like etisalat, the TRA forces etisalat to block skype.

the new telco won't even offer internet services to start with.

10 December, 2005 10:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 'mantra' we hear all the time is ' market forces are the determing factor' in just about anything !

Everyone and their uncle makes it a point to shout out the above from the rooftops to anyone who is willing to listen.

lets be very clear boys and girls... essential services here are ALL MONOPOLIES. look at all the essential services. and decide for yourselves.

I hope the above is'nt too heretic for 'you know who'

10 December, 2005 10:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Bitek study found that uncontrolled VoIP traffic represents global losses ranging from $16 million to $100 million (Dh58.4 to Dh365 million) annually.

This is hilarious. It's such a beautiful piece of economic illiteracy it ought to be a case study in an economic textbook.

VoIP is causing no "losses" at all. The only losses occur when consumers are forced to pay for something that they should be able to get for free.

Of course by losses they mean "profits we don't get to collect." But these profits really are losses to the economy as a whole. By banning Skype, Etisalat is able to collect tens or hundreds of millions of dollars for a service that no one actually needs because the same service is available literally for free. That money goes to pay to maintain Etisalat's capacity to provide this useless service. This money would otherwise be spent on economically useful activity. For example, rather then paying a fortune to call home once a week, maybe day labourers could afford a pair of eyeglasses.

10 December, 2005 11:43  
Blogger One Nine Seven One said...

Ok you angry villagers with pitch forks and torches at the ready, (that includes you SD).. since Etisalat still holds the block switch and are APPEARING to not using it fairly and consistently, remember that they can end this discussion VIA this blog, right here, right now if they want.

10 December, 2005 12:27  
Blogger CG said...

There are a lot of people who use SKYPE because it is avaliable (a bit like when Clinton said he did it because he COULD). These people will not use the phone once skype is no more available. What they might do (and should do) is cancel their Internet subscription with the ever almighty Talasite (funny how that rhymes with parasite).

10 December, 2005 12:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had this discussion several times with others. It isn't Etisalat that is keen on blocking Skype as much as the TRA is. In fact, this is something that is agreed on across the GCC.

A friend works at a Telecom who are attempting to offer VoIP services (not in the UAE). He sites Skype being the #1 threat to the success of such businesses.

Now, I do agree that countries have the right to place tariffs against products that harm their own economy (in their view -- one may not necessarily agree.. and as you can surely see, no two people can agree on any economic prediction).

The problem, however is, Etissalat and the TRA for that matter, should provide the consumers with a true alternative to Skype before attempting to pull the plug. In addition to that, they may even allow consumers to bypass their Snyper or whatever, for a fee that helps them fund and further develop this 'alternative' service.

In either case, simply saying, "no more cars to be imported" without the country being able to produce its own cars is shooting yourself in the foot (or any other more favorable body part).

10 December, 2005 12:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good points, Mohamed.

But you're a bit wrong in saying that it's more to do with TRA's policy of blocking the skype service than it is of Etisalat.
The usage of VoIP in UAE is not under the jurisdiction of TRA at all.
Simply because VoIP is just like any other internet protocols, similar to HTTP, FTP and E-mail(smtp).

First they came for the web, and imposed an evil proxy.
Now they're after VoIP.

What is next? Iranian type of regulation of the Net, where you get one religious prick per a pair of computers watching over you 24/7, and that's in a scale of a country.

10 December, 2005 13:37  
Blogger Keef said...

This is all getting a bit ironic. Dubai Internet and Media Cities have used VOIP ever since they were established 4-5 years ago (and charging users close-to-Etisalat call charges). Now TECOM (the holding company for DIC/DMC) is part of the consortium for Eitsalat's Daughter.

There is no doubt that VOIP is the future of telecoms, and any halfway sensible telco should be jumping on that bandwagon, not trying to ban it. The big question is 'how to make money out of it?'

What we're seeing here is an industry going through a major transitional phase. The old, slow dinosaurs (BT, Etisalat) will tend to die, new, snappy upstarts (Skype) will flourish. The dinosaurs have to choose which side of the fence they prefer to be on.

Oh, and since when has it been against the 'religious, cultural, political and moral' values of the UAE to criticise Etisalat? And when did 'political' get added into that little phrase?

10 December, 2005 14:17  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, An Emirati's Thoughts disappeared (no explanation).

Then Dubai Blog was blocked (not clear why).

Now Dubai Blog is completely gone without a trace.

What next?

10 December, 2005 14:45  
Blogger samuraisam said...

anonymous, and then people could read n stuff.

emirati made it clear on the uae community why his blog was taken down.

sorrydubai was taken down by its own author.

10 December, 2005 15:26  
Blogger moryarti said...

Other than the in-your-face-diss of etisalat, FYH occasionally posted photos of cars with their license plate numbers clearly visible.. He used aggressive terms to described their owners/drivers negatively.

I asked a friend of mine who is in legal, he told me thats defamation and whoever did this can be held liable for it.

When signing the application form for any etisalat Internet services, one of the contract clauses says that user can not use the Inetnet service to defame, insult or harass individuals or organisations using email, usergroups or personal or public websites ... etc

As a result, Etisalat can press charges, deprive the user from etisalat services and who knows what else ..

Also, if the user was using his company's internet access to post any of his blogs, he could even be in more trouble since Etisalat might take further action against the organization as its his sponsor.

Ya3ni in short, his post pissed the hell out of someone with grande kojones and they wanted it offline as soon as possible..

Its a shame he is offline though... i didn't agree with everything he said, but i did enjoy his slapstick sense of humor..

10 December, 2005 15:33  
Blogger samuraisam said...

moryati he did indeed, censorship of number plates, and a suitable disclaimer would've protected him.

etisalat can't proove much about what he did and didn't do without revealing how much they monitor users. i dont think they're prepared to compromise monitoring powers that they may or may not have to make some irate driver happy.

10 December, 2005 17:40  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Telecom companies need to realize that by letting people use Skype they will in return sell more broadband connections.
Let the evolution progress, don t try to stop it.

10 December, 2005 20:27  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The one time FYH higlighted some idiot who had parked wrongly. The other time was a mod-job on a beat-up old car. If anything, his ranting about local culture prob did him in, but then there are locals who criticise idiotic aspects of Dubai.

There is a real problem in Middle Eastern culture...there is a prison-warden mentality that refuses to die out. Probably a result of years of state indoctrination into the 'evils' of independent thinking.

10 December, 2005 21:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend works at a Telecom who are attempting to offer VoIP services (not in the UAE). He sites Skype being the #1 threat to the success of such businesses.

Really? Competition is the biggest threat to the success of their business? No kidding!

This demonstrates the complete backwards thinking of state monopolies right across the globe. Originally, these monopolies were (theoretically) intended to benefit the country's citizens. Inevitably, their goal becomes their continued survival and they end up exploiting the very people there were supposed to protect.

Yes, indeed -- free VoIP will destroy VoIP you have to pay for every single time. If these monopolies cared anything about the consumers they serve, they'd do a deal with Skype to make it the monopoly provider.

11 December, 2005 00:24  
Blogger 3omani said...

I hear Etisalat has done its homework and found a loophole to do this. You can start petitions at

11 December, 2005 00:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keefieboy wrote

This is all getting a bit ironic. Dubai Internet and Media Cities have used VOIP ever since they were established 4-5 years ago (and charging users close-to-Etisalat call charges).

I'm told, though we know what that's worth, that those two areas are not under the proxy, or rather are proxy free, so they have unfettered internet access. The price the UAE paid to have some of those companies come in country. Although, I now hear, equally unreliable again, that some of those same companies in DIC and DMC are thinking of jumping ship because of the high cost of being in Dubai. Poetic justice if you ask me.

11 December, 2005 15:34  
Blogger _sublime_ said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11 December, 2005 16:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mohamed Elzubeir is a fool of king kong proportions.

11 December, 2005 21:18  
Blogger secretdubai said...

a fool of king kong proportions

And your learned and thoroughly researched arguments for that would be...?

11 December, 2005 21:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Etisilat has a good thing and is fighting a losing battle to keep the status quo.

Sheik Zayed promised competition, but it is clear that the Government doesn't want to let the competitive contract go to a serious competitor. Inexpensive communications could make Dubai a major world center.

Etisilat can make up much of its lost money by offering ex pat friendly services, rather than gouging everyone. It is funny that Etisilat is not learning this lesson as it is setup up shops in other countries and become the challenger against the incumbent state run providers.

YOu can buy UK Mobile number blocks wholesale for pennies and make plenty of money offering Brits in the UAE UK Virtual numbers for their mobiles. Same for Australia, etc. The US is more complicated because of the massive time shift and the fact that the caller doesn't pay for calling a mobile. I'd happily pay an extra 10 quid a month for a UK number ringing on my mobile if I didn't have to 25p a minute for the honour of having the call connected.

How many of us would happily pay a small randsom, sorry user's fee for a VOIP friendly DSL connection with appropriate prioritisation, etc.

What about an extra 10 quid a month for a Call-UK plan for our mobiles where we can call the UK for the same price as a domestic call. Etisilat can make plenty of money embracing the technology and offering responsive solutions, rather than fighting the inevitable.

In the end, the only way Etisilat can stop VOIP is by degrading the quality of the internet as a whole or create a system where only approved applications can access the net. Skype can always alter its structure to make it harder to detect.

Skype already tunnels out using https. Bitek must be spotting Skype either as it attempts to connect to the net (e.g. cycling through various connection options) or by placing counterfeit Skype nodes on the Etisilat system.

Bitek's own website suggests that it doesn't block Skype's IM capacity, only the VOIP one.

In a country trying to be the Hong Kong or Singapore of the Middle East, this would be a stupid move, but I can see it happen.

11 December, 2005 21:44  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't worry everyone - for every one person trying to block Skype (VoIP) there will be a 1000 people willing to make a solution to get around the block - blockers face a losing battle :-)

12 December, 2005 08:55  
Blogger Garthicus said...

No worries for Secret Dubai, he can send his ramblings to me and I will post them from Ireland!

I am happy as Larry here in work as my job actually provide me with a Skype phone to chat to our colleagues in International offices.. and they also give me a Skype phone to use at home with free call credit for personal use..

12 December, 2005 18:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arrests in RAK

Presumably the 'illegal' equipment is Skype or similar.

02 January, 2006 13:19  
Blogger hnugg said...

I read this:

Vbuzzer is challenging the proprietary protocol many VoIP companies are using which has left users vulnerable to security holes, virus attack, memory leaks, abnormal port activities and paying for inferior quality.

Full story on vbuzzer site

No one like un-managed traffic exist on his PC. I believe skype will blocked by more and more places sooner or later.

17 January, 2006 03:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have a working solution in the Middle East including UAE for Evil Etisalat's illegal blocking of VOIP. Just mail me on for more details. Our service works on SIP protocols inspite of etisalat blocking SIP.

30 August, 2006 13:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's another controlling body of greedy individuals that cannot fathom the fact that free thought and enterprize is achievable by the common person. All these A-holes want is to run everyone with a good thought out of town after they steal their good ideas.

21 October, 2006 21:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is to show how dastardly cunning and monopolizing Etisalat is:

Try going to (New UAE telecom)

Try going to (Video sharing site)

Try going to (another Video Sharing site)

Try going to (Friend Networking site)

You ask what these sites have in common? They all return 'Network Error' messages. Yet if you search each site in google and load up their cached pages, they have been accessed outside UAE. To prove it, ask or chat with a friend outside UAE to check these sites if they work, and they'll be able to access them. They have been ILLEGALLY blocked by Etisalat. As for, which is a BIG case, Etisalat's motive is to sabotage its emergence in the UAE market. The other sites.however... Etisalat just wants to block them without telling the public that they are responsible for it. That's why browsers will just see a network error onscreen instead of the notorious 'Site Blocked' page. I believe this is an instance of Etisalat's abuse of its current monopoly and power. and I believe it's illegal. If they claim responsibility for blocking sites, the public must know so. It's up to the public to accept it. Not conspiring against public knowledge. We have the right, don't we?

Why, do you ask, did they implement this? It's because they can't control public demand and popularity of these sites... which they insist, fall in their category as 'culturally offensive'.... which, I think, is a can full of hypocrisy. That's why they looked for a back door to all this.

It doesn't matter to Etisalat if they own some shares on du. Their main focus is to maintain its hold on the market. And they did this in a sneaky way, cutting off public interest in du.

By the way, they didn't block since a huge number of users complained to them about blocks in the past and it's currently the most popular friend networking site to date. But I'm sure time will tell...

Now this may be a conspiracy theory... but I suggest you all try it for yourselves. If you do care about your rights and want to spread the word please do pass this around to every UAE resident you know... and hopefully it arrives at a mailbox of someone who can take the appropriate action.

Thank you all for your time.

14 January, 2007 12:07  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I checked the du site. Seems ok now. But the rest of the aforementioned sites are what was mentioned, un accessible.

14 January, 2007 15:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kept hearing people talk about Voip and IP Telephony. Didn't know what it was but i found the Lloyds Business website and it shed some light. Not as exciting as i though it was gonna be

18 February, 2008 18:32  
Blogger Donald said...


After travelling in Dubai (UAE) and in China, I found a software that unblock Skype and censored contents in some countries.

I know Skype is blocked or there is censor in the following countries : Belize, China, Columbia, Cuba, Jordan, UAE ...

After searching internet, I found a way to make calls and to access censored content in those countries using a VPN (Virtual Private Network).

How does it works ?

A VPN encrypte the data you send on internet to a US IP adress (tunnel). This way your Internet Services Provider can't detect you are using Skype or another VoIP software ! It allow you access to censored content and geographical locked contents (i.e: listening radio on , warching TV streams for US residents, ...).

There is a lot of VPN softwares, the first I tried was VPNaccounts. I didn't like it because it took a lot of time for activation, it was expensive and helpdesk support was very slow.

A friend of mine who lives in Belize told me about another VPN software called Witopia personnalVPN.

Now I am using Witopia personnalVPN
. It is easier to use (you just have to launch the software before launching Skype), faster and cheaper than all other VPN softwares I tried.

It costs 39.99$ and works perfectly.

You can download it from the official editor's website : Witopia personnalVPN

Works on Windows and Mac.

I hope this post will help people who are in those countries and reducing censorship !

Contact me if you need more information :

27 May, 2008 22:07  

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