Libyan Rebels Keep GSM Network Going

Aljazeera has a long, interesting article detailing how engineers kept cell service online in the rebel-controlled eastern part of Libya.

According to reporter Evan Hill, Gaddafi’s government severed a fiber cable connecting Tobruk in the east to Ras Ajdir in the west. Without access to central HLR servers, a GSM network element containing a registry of cell phone numbers, service was lost in eastern Libya.

But a separate cell provider, Libyana, was able to restore voice communication by configuring a spare HLR located in Benghazi.

It’s one thing to understand the concepts of resilient network design but another to watch it in action, especially when the stakes are high.  And they don’t get too much higher with the situation in Libya.

After Libyana restored service, all calls were free.  And then with the surge of traffic, engineers had to become network arbiters, sometimes suspending callers who were on the line too long.

There’s also an interesting side story of how an American company, Maryland-base Tecore, helped setup a satellite dish in Benghazi , thereby connecting the Libyana network to the rest of the world

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