You are here. The trip was great—the places you are going through are beautiful and magnificent at the same time.
You can’t wait to get to the place you are staying to call your buddies home and tell them about this place.
You get to your room and open up Viber because as you know, Viber is the messaging app that connects people—no matter who they are or where they’re from; and you are one of the more than 1 billion users who use it on daily basis.
So you open the app only to find a notification that says No Service. Now knowing you’re unable to make that call, you try to use the text messaging service, but the result is the same.
Welcome to China.
Okay… let’s take a moment here and start from the very beginning.
What Is Viber?
In loose terms, Viber is the big, responsible brother of the other messaging apps. It ensures users’ end-to-end privacy and data encryption. It has a massive following, around 1 billion to be exact if we are to believe the word from Viber.
The reasons vary but it is mostly due to its free messaging, high-quality voice calls and video connectivity that people love using it.
It is almost a bit ironic that it is also due to these very same qualities that Viber is blocked in a lot of countries. The main culprits here are its policy about data security and users’ privacy.
It is an easy to use service which doesn’t even require a login and password combo. It simply uses your phone number to register you, and you are then free to connect to friends and family, even outside the country.
So… Viber is
- Has a high-quality video chat
- Has a high-quality audio chat
- Has amazing text, audio/video connectivity
- And is super easy to use
This all seems so friendly and harmless, innocent to an extent. So why can’t you use it in China?
Geo-blocking is when access to digital content is blocked through technical means depending upon the user’s geographical location. This can be either due to the marketing/sales strategy of the company owning the content or sometimes due to the content not meeting the target area’s standards.
In Viber’s case it is a bit different. It’s blocked because of the censorship standards of countries who want to keep an eye on their citizens.
In countries like China, it is a bit of that and a bit more…
In China, the government’s policies regarding the internet are multilayered. They want conditional access of it to their population to …
- Keep the flow of information in their own hands
- Keep an eye on citizens’ activities
- Give local businesses an environment to grow without outside influence
This conditional access or censorship of the internet is called the great firewall of China, named after the Great Wall of China.
The Great Firewall of China
The Great Wall of China was built to keep invaders at bay… in the great firewall’s case, it is to control traffic through both sides of the firewall. This conditional access has enabled C
hina to block famous international services which promote a free flow of data. Services like Viber, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Spotify and even Google and its other services along with big media giants like the New York Times and Bloomberg are blocked in China.
This helped the local IT sector to boom and come up with their own version of foreign replicas and in some cases enhanced variations. This practice is on verge of making Google change its policies to launch its services in China in compliance with the rules imposed by the Chinese government.
Viber Under the Great Firewall
Viber, also being one of the apps facing censorship, is not accessible in China. Its censorship is a result of all of the three reasons mentioned above combined. It is because of censorship of apps like Viber and others like it, that the Chinese app market is now ruled by local apps like WeChat and Tencent. These apps following the government policies are part of what enabled China to launch its controversial citizen social credit reward program.
Cases like these have taken the common users to start considering their data privacy and digital identity, anonymity as an important asset.
This is the reason why, dear world traveler, your service is not available to make a free call when you are in China.
VPN – The Savior of Privacy
In the grim sounding digitally blocked future, there is a silver lining, more like a dawn of new age to overcome this grim, dark blockade. It is called a VPN, or virtual private network.
A VPN is a digital network, within a physical one. It is used so that you can have an access to a digital private network through a public one. Once getting access to that private network, you appear to the rest of the network as part of that network regardless of your actual location. An Asian can appear to be part of an American network or vice versa.
So how does this help our “No Service” problem? Remember, the app blockage is dependent on users’ location. Consider yourself virtually being part of an unblocked area’s network; the blockade would not affect you since it would think of you as someone from outside the blockage area’s network.
Setting up a VPN requires technical knowledge and assistance. Thankfully, there are a lot of companies offering apps which do the hard work for you and set it up on your phone/computer on the click of a button. These apps not only hide your traffic through encryption but also your location by having servers at multiple locations.
This is the “open sesame” for the door through the great firewall of China.
Steps to Unblock Viber in China
You have now learned about the passage through the great firewall of China. Now follow the steps mentioned below to travel on the path towards digital freedom.
Choose the Right VPN
The VPN application you need to choose will depend on different factors. Factors that include…
- The OS you are using, whether it is
- Or MacOS
- Server locations
- Number of Servers
- Device Support/Concurrent Connections
- IP addresses
- Value for money
The combination of these factors will determine the VPN service provides the ability to bypass geo blocks, hiding your actual location, helping you choose your own virtual location.
Installing the VPN
Once you have determined which VPN to use, all is left for you to do is install it, turn it on and voilà! Your VPN is now set up, locating you virtually at the place of your choice.
Installing the VPN app is almost identical for all the apps out there.
What you need to do is…
- Make a login to your choice of the VPN service provider (more on that below)
- Download the app from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store for your smart device.
- Launch the app
- Select one of the available servers, and there you go
Depending on the service provider, you can choose to select where you want to appear to be connecting to the internet, you can even change your IP address.
Top VPN Choices
We have done the hard work for you. Out of a number of VPN service providers we have selected a total of top three to help you get started. Below is a summary, along with their links for registration.
Considered by many to be the industry leader, ExpressVPN has outmatched the competition by providing reliable security, a huge number of servers (2,000) and unique security features which are hard to match by other providers.
It supports multiple connections and 256 bit AES military grade encryption to ensure user data security. With its split tunneling, you can choose yourself which data you want to encrypt.
It also allows its users to choose from a number of different protocols to run for security.
Users can either choose
- OpenVPN (the default)
- And L2TP/IPSec
Its customer support is outstanding and can be reached through social media as well as live messages and email. The app itself is easy to use and with a group of stealth servers, it is an ideal VPN to use in a heavily censored place like China.
ExpressVPN starts from $8.32… a bit expensive, but worth it.
NordVPN is a Panama-based service that has been around for more than a decade. Like ExpressVPN, it provides 256 bit AES encryption, multi-protocol support, great customer support and user experience. It uses double encryption to secure users’ data—their data is encrypted in one server and then again in another, also called double VPN.
Security is further ensured by the use of TOR over VPN and anonymity through SmartPlay, which is used to change or hide your IP. It also supports multiple connections.
NordVPN also has specialty servers which you can choose depending on what you want to do online. These include servers for…
- HD streaming
- And torrenting
The features don’t end here. You also get yourself CyberSec, a unique feature which blocks harmful websites, cyberattacks and unwanted ads on your device.
Based in Panama, you can be sure that European and American surveillance laws don’t apply. And then there are other benefits, including the fact that the subscription starts from $2.99.
IPVanish is a service that is extremely popular among users who download large chunks of data or streaming. It is the fastest among its peers and offers no bandwidth limit whatsoever. IPVanish allows peer-to-peer transfer and has no restrictions on shared files and data.
Based in the U.S., the company offers complete privacy through 256 bit AES encryption and their no log policy.
IPVanish is different in another aspect that it doesn’t require its users to download its app. Its app has multi-OS support. If you don’t download its app, you can use one of its extensions for your specific internet browser. Conversely, you can also use its web-based SOCKS5 proxy without having to download the app or the extension. IPVanish is pretty flexible in this aspect. It also supports 10 multiple connections, the most in our selected list of VPNs.
IPVanish costs around $6.49 at its most economical option of yearly subscription.
So we have covered amazing quality, unique features to fast speeds and flexibility. Now it is up to you to spend some time going through each of them in detail and choose which one suits you best.
All three are more than capable to run Viber behind the great firewall of China.