Reader Walt Pinkston has family abroad that he'd like to chat with via FaceTime. He writes:
I'm a casual user of FaceTime, and it seems to work well most of the time. However, I've just noticed that I can't establish a FaceTime connection with my daughter who's traveling in the United Arab Emirates. She has her iPhone 4 with her, and we've been successful with FaceTime sessions using this gear here in the U.S. Can you shed some light on what's going on and how to get FaceTime working for us?
The UAE's Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA) restricts access to portions of the web as well as person-to-person video communication such as Apple's FaceTime. This is not controlled on the handset but rather via the country's carriers. Any IP address originating in the UAE is subject to this censorship, which explains why you can't establish the connection with your daughter.
The way around it is for your progeny to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). In essence this tells the world that your device is communicating via an IP address that is in a country other than the UAE, and therefore not subject to its restrictions. There are a variety of these services available including PureVPN, StrongVPN, Hotspot Shield VPN, ExpressVPN, and Ivacy VPN.
Of course, even if you're not in a country where your access to the web and communications are limited, VPN can be helpful. Its primary purpose is to provide secure communications between you and something like an office server that lives behind a corporate firewall. But it's also a common way to enjoy content in another country that can't be consumed outside that country. For example, many Americans stream the BBC's content over a VPN connection.
Setting up a VPN on an iOS device isn't difficult, but should your daughter need a little help, Apple has the details.