Expatriates account for around 90 per cent of the UAE’s population and they largely rely on free internet calling audio and video apps to connect to their friends and loved ones in their home countries.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology allows users to make voice and video calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of traditional phone landlines. In the Gulf region, virtual private networks (VPNs) are used to access and download free audio and video calling apps.
As per the UAE Decree Law No (34) of 2021 concerning combating rumours and cybercrimes, VPN misuse can attract a fine of up Dh2 million as well as imprisonment.
Moreover, the UAE’s telecom service providers Etisalat and du offer daily and monthly Internet calling plans for GoChat, Botim and Voico that start as low as Dh5 per day.
Below is a list of both free and paid internet calling apps that residents can use to make audio and video calls.
> GoChat: Etisalat UAE launched GoChat Messenger, a free voice and video calling app, on July 1. The app can be downloaded from both Android and Apple platforms by anyone worldwide, only requiring a mobile number for registration. It also allows UAE residents to remit money, pay bills, play games and order food. Etisalat also offers two packages costing Dh50 and Dh99 to make calls for 250 and 1,500 international minutes through GoChat without using mobile data.
> Botim: In addition to audio and video calls, the app allows users to share photos, videos, voice messages, locations, SMSs, contacts, web clips and more. People can also have a group chat with up to 500 users.
> Voico: Etisalat has also listed Voico app that UAE residents can download to stay in touch with their loved ones. Promising to be providing crystal clear audio and video connectivity, people can download it on mobile and desktop. It also allows to share photos, videos, GIFs and animated stickers and translates chats into 100-plus languages.
> Google Meet: Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, Google’s video communication app Meet has seen a massive increase in demand. The app is free to download and can be used by individuals and businesses in the UAE on desktop, iOS and Android platforms.
> Microsoft Teams: Like Google Meet, Microsoft Teams also saw unprecedented demand, especially from businesses, for video conferencing after the pandemic. It offers free unlimited group meetings for up to 60 minutes and there are paid packages at very affordable rates.
> Skype Businesses: UAE businesses can use Skype for audio and video calls to their customers. It’s available for free on all platforms.
> Zoom: This is also one of the most popular audio and video calling apps in the world. This can be used by both individuals as well as businesses in the UAE.