Civil War in Yemen Begins to Divide Country’s Internet

August 10, 2018 Doug Madory

The latest development in Yemen’s long-running civil war is playing out in the global routing table.  The country’s Internet is now being partitioned along the conflict’s battle lines with the recent activation of a new telecom in government-controlled Aden.

Control of YemenNet

The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels currently hold the nation’s capital Sana’a in the north, while Saudi-backed forces loyal to the president hold the port city of Aden in the south (illustrated in the map below from Al Jazeera).  One advantage the Houthis enjoy while holding Sana’a is the ability to control Yemen’s national operator YemenNet.  Last month, the Houthis cut fiber optic lines severing 80% of Internet service in Yemen.

Launch of AdenNet

In response to the loss of control of YemenNet, the government of President Hadi began plans to launch a new Yemeni telecom, AdenNet, that would provide service to Aden without relying on (or sending revenue to) the Houthi-controlled incumbent operator.  Backed with funding from UAE and built using Huawei gear, AdenNet (AS204317) went live in the past week exclusively using transit from Saudi Telecom (AS39386), as depicted below in a view from Dyn Internet Intelligence.

The new Aden-based telecom would also allow the Yemeni government to restrict access to the submarine cables that land in Aden without impacting their own Internet service.

More recently, the government of President Hadi has been lobbying RIPE NCC to regain control of Yemen’s Internet numbers and ICANN to regain control of the country’s ccTLD, which would restore their control over domains ending with .ye.  These vital components to operating the Internet of Yemen are traditionally controlled by YemenNet, now in the hands of the rebels.

Divided Internet

Internet service in Yemen faces myriad challenges in this troubled nation from hackers to sabotage.  As the conflict rages on in Yemen, the country’s Internet is now being partitioned between YemenNet (AS12486, AS30873), controlled by the Houthi rebels, and now AdenNet (AS204317), controlled by the Saudi-backed Yemeni government.

The Internet doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  From Cuba to Crimea, a country’s Internet is regularly shaped by events and conditions on the ground.  And in the case of Yemen, divided along the lines of an intractable civil war.  On the upside, Yemen now has two backbone providers, which could ultimately improve resiliency and increase competition within the market.

Thanks to Fahmi Albaheth, President of the Internet Society of Yemen for assistance in this analysis.


About the Author

Doug Madory is a Director of Internet Analysis at Dyn where he works on Internet infrastructure analysis projects. Doug has a special interest in mapping the logical Internet to the physical lines that connect it together, with a special interest on submarine cables.

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