Dubai: Residents are using restricted technology to make cheap international calls via smartphones.
They use “mobile dialler” apps that involve VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) to place calls at a fraction of regular rates.
VoIP is restricted in the UAE by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), with exceptions granted to licensees.
But unlicensed UAE dealers register themselves overseas as resellers for the diallers so they can sell access codes to residents here.
A dialler user said he can call 1,000 minutes to India for just Dh50. By comparison, a licensed UAE phone company charges Dh1,890 for the same talk time even during off-peak rates.
“I can use mobile diallers to call any mobile or landline. The receiver doesn’t need the same app or a smartphone,” he said.
“The voice quality’s good, better than Skype or Viber. I use it to make business calls and to stay in touch with family and friends in India.”
The diallers are downloadable on many smartphone models and work over 3G and Wi-Fi networks.
Similar unlicensed “net to phone” services exist in the market but they need a computer to dial out from.
The mobile diallers offer the same service on the go.
Last November, Sharjah Police arrested six men for allegedly running illegal makeshift call centres from their homes.
The centres were operating without a TRA licence — the premises were raided and the equipment seized.
Police warned that the public can be held responsible if caught making “illegal phone calls”.
A series of similar arrests have been made in the past few months in Sharjah.
Gulf News went undercover and visited a number of internet cafes in Dubai where net-to-phone services were offered. Another dealer, for mobile diallers, offered undercover Gulf News staff 640 minutes to India for Dh33.
Gulf News was not able to reach TRA officials for comment; e-mailed requests for comment were not returned at the time of going to press.
A dialler dealer said the servers hosting the services, which are legal in many countries, are located outside the UAE.
Users’ mobile dialler accounts are topped up when the dealer receives the payment. One dealer said a popular way of paying is by transferring mobile phone credit to the dealer.
“There’s no need to meet or discuss the deal. You just transfer mobile phone credit — instead of cash — to me and I’ll turn on your mobile dialler account,” he said.
“When you’re finished, call me and I’ll give you a new code.”