UAE: Is it illegal to use VPNs to make free calls?

The use of Virtual Private Networks for illegal means or to commit a crime is a serious offence in the country


Ashish Mehta

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Published: Sun 12 Mar 2023, 11:12 AM

Last updated: Sun 12 Mar 2023, 10:06 PM

Question: I am reaching out to you as I am seeing many contradictory reports about my query. Are free calling apps allowed in the UAE? Am I allowed to use VPN for free calling apps?

Response: Pursuant to your queries, the provisions of Law No. 34 of 2021 Concerning to Combating Rumours and Cybercrimes (the ‘UAE Cyber Law’) and those of TDRA Regulatory Policy on Internet Access Management of 2017 (the ‘TDRA Internet Access Regulations) are applicable.

In the UAE, the use of Virtual Private Network (VPN) may not be considered as illegal if it is used in accordance with the guidelines of the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (the ‘TDRA’). The TDRA had mentioned in its statement in August 2016 that in the UAE, VPN may be used by companies, institutions and banks for internal purposes. However, use of VPN technology for illegal means and to commit a crime is serious offence in the UAE. This is in accordance with Article 10 of the UAE Cyber Law, which states: “Shall be punished by imprisonment and a fine not less than Dh500,000 and not exceeding Dh2,000,000 or either of these two penalties, whoever frauded a computer network protocol address by using an address belonging to a third party or by any other means for the purpose of committing a crime or preventing its discovery.’’

Further, Clause 1.9 of the TDRA Internet Access Regulations defines the term ‘Prohibited Content Categories’ and the same has been detailed in Annex 1 of the TDRA Internet Access Regulations. The said Annex 1 of the TDRA Internet Access Regulations mentions various list of internet contents which are prohibited in the UAE.

You may use the VPN for Voice Over Internet Protocol (the ‘VOIP’) calls on free tele/video applications (apps). However, you may not access TDRA prohibited applications (apps) on internet using the VPN to make VOIP calls. This is in accordance with Clause 1 and Clause 14 of the Annex 1 of the TDRA Internet Access Regulations, which states:

“Clause 1 – By passing and accessing blocked content:

This category includes internet content that allows or helps users to have access to prohibited content including the proxy servers and Virtual Private Networks services (VPNs) that mainly allow access to the prohibited content on the internet.”

“Clause 14

Illegal Communication Services:

This category includes internet content that promotes or allows access to illegal communication services according to a regulation or decision by the competent authority.”

Based on the aforementioned provisions of the regulations of TDRA, if you are using any applications (apps) in the UAE which are prohibited through VPN to make VOIP calls, then such action by you may be considered illegal and may attract penalties as mentioned above in the provision of UAE Cyber Law. Further, the use of VPN and VOIP in the UAE for illegal activities even though through the website and applications (apps) which are legally allowed in the UAE may be considered as crime. Therefore, you as an individual need to be responsibly use VPN and VOIP on legally allowed website and applications (apps) in the UAE.

It will be prudent to verify if the relevant free calling applications (apps) from which you can make VOIP calls are legally allowed in the UAE. For further clarifications related to this matter you may consult a legal practitioner in the UAE or the TDRA.

Ashish Mehta is the founder and Managing Partner of Ashish Mehta & Associates. He is qualified to practise law in Dubai, the United Kingdom and India. Full details of his firm on: Readers may e-mail their questions to: or send them to Legal View, Khaleej Times, PO Box 11243, Dubai.


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