Be Careful How You Phone Home During Your Addis Ababa Stopover

Ever since Ethiopian Airlines joined the Star Alliance in December, there’s been great business class award availability to members of United and US Airways frequent flyer programs on Ethiopian’s direct service from Washington Dulles (via Rome) to Addis Ababa, with easy connections from there to the rest of Africa (it serves more destinations in Africa than any other carrier).

The government-owned airline ferries plenty more Americans to Ethiopia for stopovers at a minimum than they did before joining the alliance.

But Americans may not be aware that they’d better be careful how they call home– since the government there has banned Skype and other voice over internet services, according to al Jazeera. The penalty is up to 15 years of jail time for users.

Prime Minister Meles Zenaw says the move is meant to ensure national security, though I haven’t seen any more detail explaining this rationale. It’s generally considered flimsy at best, with the move being the latest in a string of crackdowns against services competing with the government telecomm monopoly.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This is not uncommon in many parts of Africa. I’d say at least half the African countries that I have visited have some sort of restrictions if not outright bans (in theory at least) against VOIP services. My company had to jump through a number of hoops to get a “Skype License” for our employees to use the software at our HQ.

    FWIW, I haven’t yet seen an internet connection in Ethiopia fast enough to make using VOIP practical, so this probably won’t have much impact! 🙂

  2. Many nations have this, the question for casual travels is if it is enforced. If it well that is a problem

  3. There IS a valid security issue with voip.
    Look into it before you assume its due to monopoly.

  4. @Matthew

    What? You haven’t heard about the truckloads of cash other nations in the world spend to try to steal Ethiopian state secrets… like their world famous high yield farming programs, miles long human water moving transport system or SEE (Sand Export Exchange)?? 😉

    Agreed – any of the myriad of VPN providers easily solves these issues.

  5. Their are valid security issues with national phone companies. VOIP can be, but is not necessarily, the lesser evil.

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