If you follow matters of Internet freedom around the world, you’re probably familiar with the Great Firewall of China. But did you know that many areas in the Arab Region are affected by the Etisalat Firewall? While the Internet restrictions in China may make the news more often, restrictions in places like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and even Egypt are often accomplished by means of the Etisalat Firewall, a cheeky name for the company’s censorship measures.
Because the Etisalat telecommunications network is so prevalent throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, expats or visitors to this region will likely encounter it at some point when they attempt to access the Internet. It will be helpful for them to know how a VPN can bypass the Etisalat Firewall and remove Internet restrictions.
A little about Etisalat
The Emirates Telecommunications Corporation is the official name of Etisalat. In Arabic, Etisalat literally means “communications” and this is the name branded to the ETC’s service which is currently offered in 15 nations ranging from Libya to India, and including countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
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Known primarily as a mobile services provider, Etisalat is the 12th largest provider of mobile communications in the world. Forbes Middle East also named Etisalat the most powerful company in the UAE. Etisalat, however, is not just about mobile phone communications. They also provide Internet to over 1 million subscribers through a combination of 3G/4G mobile, Broadband, and pre/post-paid dial up service. Many Etisalat WiFi hotspots, known as iZone, can be found in restaurants, shopping malls, and other areas all throughout the company’s service area.
The Etisalat Firewall and censorship
When you try to open a dating website, online poker site or casino, or even use some VoIP services via Etisalat’s servers, this is what you will probably see:
Etisalat adheres to a strict policy of restricting websites that are deemed objectionable by the UAE. While they primarily serve the UAE with Internet, the company servers function as a hub that routes much Internet traffic throughout their service area. This is what is known as the Etisalat Firewall. Sites that typically cannot get through this firewall include:
- – Pornographic and sexually explicit sites
- – Anonymous proxy sites
- – Anti-Islamic sites
- – Some digital media sharing sites
- – VoIP services
Now, you might want to pay attention to the second type of site in the above list. There was a time when many people preferred the use of web-based, anonymous proxy servers to help them unblock websites in the UAE. This is becoming increasingly difficult now owing to an increased sophistication in Etisalat’s content filtering system.
Beating the Etisalat Firewall
Visiting a dating website or playing online poker is still something that can be accomplished in regions serviced by Etisalat, but the only effective option that remains is a VPN, and it is very important that you obtain your VPN before you arrive in Etisalat’s area of coverage. Accessing a site to purchase VPN service may be very difficult or impossible once you arrive.
Not counting the fact that many anonymous proxy servers are blocked, are VPN’s still a better option? They are indeed, for one very big reason—speed. It is very difficult to stream media or have a voice chat or play poker using a proxy server. The transmission of data is just too slow, and this results in dropped connections. The VPN servers maintained by VPNaccounts.com are practically indistinguishable in terms of speed from your own home connection. It is also far less likely that your connection to our servers will be dropped, leaving your actual physical connection exposed. That’s a big consideration.
And what about the advertising that support “free” proxy servers? You won’t find any of that here. We also do not retain logs of your Internet activity. If beating the Etisalat Firewall were just about removing the censorship roadblocks that exist on the Internet highway, one might could argue that a free proxy is just fine. But it’s not just about that. It’s about your overall level of security, too. In some countries—China for example—some people have been jailed for accessing restricted material. While things aren’t usually that bad where Etisalat is concerned, do you really want to risk being exposed? Shouldn’t your Internet activity be private?
One final word in conclusion. The landscape of Internet restriction in countries serviced by Etisalat can change in a heartbeat. We try to keep our visitors up to speed on the latest victims of the Etisalat Firewall. Check back often for udates.