So it looks like VoIP bans are still a thing in Qatar, despite the current pandemic and shelter at home suggestions. Many people rely on these apps to keep in touch with their families and loved ones during this time of need.
Unfortunately, Houseparty seems to have joined the list of banned VoIP apps in Qatar, with multiple users complaining on Twitter and asking for clarification from both ISPs (Ooredoo and Vodafone) using the hashtag #هاوس_بارتي. It’s probably important to note that this is most likely not an action the ISPs took on their own, and is likely to be government mandated censorship that they have to abide by.
Solution #1: Free VPNs
Setup Difficulty: Minimal.
Ease of Use: Easy.
Privacy and Security: Low.
This is the easiest solution by far, multiple VPN providers offer free services that are available on iOS, Android, Windows, and even MacOS. The downside is that these apps are often supported by advertisements. An additional concern is how your data is treated, there is no guarantee of privacy or security when using free VPNs.
- Browsec VPN: Free VPN and Proxy.
- Hola Free VPN Proxy
- VPN Free – Betternet Hotspot VPN & Private Browser
- Hotspot Shield Free VPN Proxy & Secure VPN
Solution #2: Paid VPNs
Setup Difficulty: Minimal but Paid.
Ease of Use: Easy.
Privacy and Security: Medium-High.
This solution is just as easy as free VPNs, however it comes with the benefit of faster connections, no advertising, and usually better privacy policies (at least in theory). This comes at a cost, but it is usually minimal and worth the money.
- Private Internet Access – Secure Private Fast
- NordVPN: Fast, ‘Secure’ & ‘Unlimited’
- Several options offered by AV solutions.
Recommended: Solution #3: Self-Hosted VPN Solution
Setup Difficulty: Considerable.
Ease of Use: Moderate.
Privacy and Security: Very High.
Performance: Very High.
This approach requires some technical knowledge and the purchase/use of a virtual private server (VPS). However, this is the most secure option out of the three as you’ll be managing the service yourself. This way, you do not have to worry about privacy breaches or data logging. In addition, the entire server’s bandwidth will be available for you without sharing it with anyone.
I’ve written a detailed post on how to use this technique by making use of the OpenVPN protocol. After following this guide carefully, you will be able to use the OpenVPN apps on most popular platforms to connect to your own VPN server whenever you feel like with guaranteed peace of mind.
Confirmation & Reactions
While there is zero official confirmation of why this ban took place, you really don’t have to worry about it. As you’ve already seen, multiple VPN solutions do exist to circumvent this form of government censorship ranging in difficulty and benefits.
That should be it, whichever method you chose you should now be able to access or VoIP applications and circumvent any other form of censorship. Be aware that the other party in a VoIP conversation should also have unblocked access.
I’ll also note here that I do not know how legal this is, as far as I am aware using a VPN is not illegal, but if you choose to go with Solution #3 I’d suggest only personal use. Do not try to resell your VPN as a service to others, or do so at your own risk.