Feeds

Afghan networks start nightly shutdown

Taliban threats turn into action

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Mobile phone companies in Afghanistan have started shutting down their networks at night in response to attacks from the Taliban, who believe the masts are being used to locate their bases and guide night-time attacks.

The BBC reports that ten mobile-phone masts have been attacked in the last few weeks - other reports vary, but it does seem that all four operators in the country have suffered damage to their networks.

Mobile telephony has grown spectacularly in Afghanistan since the first GSM licence was awarded in 2002. The two largest operators (Roshan and AWCC - The Afghan Wireless Communication Company) have around three million subscribers between them, and the market is growing rapidly as for much of the population mobile telephony is the only available telephony.

The Taliban had threatened to disrupt the network infrastructure if the operators didn't agree to shut down during the night, as they believe that coalition forces are using the networks to coordinate night-time attacks. But given that turning off the handset* would prevent such tracking, it seems likely they have an alternative motivation.

It has been suggested that this is a show of power, demonstrating to the people that the government (or even the coalition) is not in control and that the Taliban still wield the real power. If that is the intention then it seems to have backfired; the local population have been quick to embrace the convenience of mobile telecommunications and anyone interfering with that is unlikely to endear themselves.

The other possibility is that the Taliban believes the network towers are being used in some more nefarious fashion, in addition to their usual function as mobile phone masts - though in that case it's hard to understand why they would want the mobile phone network shut down.

The Afghan government has been trying to get mobile operators to stand up to the Taliban, and a spokesman for the telecommunications ministry told the BBC "We will persuade the companies to turn the signals back on again," he said", though he also admitted that "the mobile phone companies had promised us that they would not bow before the Taliban demand".

Mobile phone antennae are very soft targets for terrorists - easy to attack, impossible to conceal. In most developing markets antennae are clearly marked as they lend value to local properties, and the most serious problems are theft of copper and generator fuel, so protecting the network against attack may not be practical.

Preventing people making phone calls at night might annoy the soldiers in the area, but is unlikely to seriously disrupt military communications, and it could really piss off a local population on whose good favour the Taliban survives. ®

* Or removing the battery, if one prefers, or wrapping it in tinfoil.

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Crouching tiger, FAST ASLEEP dragon: Smugglers can't shift iPhone 6s
China's grey market reports 'sluggish' sales of Apple mobe
Sea-Me-We 5 construction starts
New sub cable to go live 2016
EE coughs to BROKEN data usage metrics BLUNDER that short-changes customers
Carrier apologises for 'inflated' measurements cockup
Comcast: Help, help, FCC. Netflix and pals are EXTORTIONISTS
The others guys are being mean so therefore ... monopoly all good, yeah?
Surprise: if you work from home you need the Internet
Buffer-rage sends Aussies out to experience road rage
EE buys 58 Phones 4u stores for £2.5m after picking over carcass
Operator says it will safeguard 359 jobs, plans lick of paint
MOST iPhone strokers SPURN iOS 8: iOS 7 'un-updatening' in 5...4...
Guess they don't like our battery-draining update?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.