Feeds

Libyan network hijacked for rebel cause

Dial 'R' for Rebel

Boost IT visibility and business value

A Libyan mobile network has been hijacked by the rebels, who had been reduced to communicating by semaphore, but can now get interrupted by an incoming call like the rest of us.

The network, dubbed "Free Libyana", consists of infrastructure bussed in from the UAE and jacked into the existing cellular infrastructure. Free Libyana is still pretty basic, but is providing vital communication to key personnel as envisioned by Ousama Abushagur, a telecoms executive living in Abu Dhabi, and reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Abushagur was concerned because he could see that communications were critical to any military operation, and that government forces were switching off parts of the cellular network prior to attacks and jamming the frequencies used by satellite phones. Radios can provide point-to-point communications, but Libya has a national cellular network, so he plotted a way to make use of that.

Not that building a new mobile network comes cheap – despite Abushagur's design being sketched out on a napkin he still had to raise millions of dollars to pay for the kit. It's also hard to buy that kind of thing, so support from Qatar and UAE administrations, as well as Etisalat, was essential as the rebels would have struggled to find a supplier without it.

The supplier remains nameless for political reasons, but we do know it isn't Huawei, as the Chinese company (who supplied the infrastructure for the network being hijacked) refused to get involved.

The kit, along with three Libyan and four western engineers, set up camp in Benghazi and are working with locals they managed to hive off a significant proportion of the Libyana network. The rest of that network is still up, and happens to be managed by Gadhafi's son (radio spectrum is a terrific thing for despots to hand over to relatives, few people notice the nepotism until it's too late).

Mobile networks tend towards a hub-based architecture for simplicity (the hub being in government-held Tripoli in this case), so it's an impressive achievement to acquire control over significant parts of the network and integrate them into a separate hub. Modern networks do try to achieve some level of local autonomy, for resilience and load balancing, but Libyana shows every sign of having been entirely based around a single hub.

Equally impressive is the political achievement. This would have been impossible without the support of the surrounding countries, both in terms of logistics and interconnection, not to mention billing.

Like all cellular networks Free Libyana is still struggling with its billing system: international calls are billed by Etisalat (and pre-paid: one can never tell when a customer is going to disappear) while local calls are free. But at least those wanting to speak to the rebels can give them a call, rather than relying on dropping spies from helicopters only for them to be captured by local farmers. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
Fifteen zero days found in hacker router comp romp
Four routers rooted in SOHOpelessly Broken challenge
EE: STILL Blighty's best mobe network, says 'Frappucino' Moore
Fresh round of network stats fisticuffs possibly on the cards here
Déjà vu: Virgin Media jacks up broadband prices
Screw copper phone lines, we're UNIQUE, bleats telco
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
US TV stations bowl sueball directly at FCC's spectrum mega-sale
Broadcasters upset about coverage and cost as they shift up and down the dials
Canadian ISP Shaw falls over with 'routing' sickness
How sure are you of cloud computing now?
UK mobile coverage is BETTER than EVER, networks tell Ofcom
Regulator swallows this line and parrots it back out at us. What are they playing at?
What's the nature of your emergency, Vodafone?
Oh, you've dialled the wrong number for ad fibs, rules ASA
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.