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PCCW Keeps Syria Connected


As the conflict in Syria continues unabated, we have observed an increase in the number of significant Internet outages in this war-torn country in the past six weeks. We first commented on the situation last year and again last month.

On Saturday, August 18th, the Syrian incumbent and sole domestic provider, Syria Telecommunications Establishment (STE, AS 29386), withdrew all 61 of its networks from the global routing table for roughly 17 minutes, starting at 07:59:00 UTC. Then again, on Sunday, August 19th, 20 of these networks were down several times between 04:00 UTC and 07:51:30 UTC. Sky News reporter, Tim Marshall, sent the tweet on the right from Syria at August 18th, 10:33 PST (or August 19th, 05:33 UTC).


In addition to frequent and substantial outages, we have also observed a dramatic shift in the telecommunications operators providing service to Syria. Until a few days ago, the incumbent in neighboring Turkey, Turk Telecom (AS 9121), was a major provider to STE and thus to all of Syria. The illustration on the right displays a weighted view of STE routes to its international carriers over time. Turk Telecom disappeared briefly on August 3rd and then permanently on August 12th.

Meanwhile, Telecom Italia’s (AS 6762) portion of Syrian transit has dropped significantly, suggesting that they could be next to leave the country. With Turk Telecom’s departure and Telecom Italia fading, Hong Kong-based PCCW is currently carrying the lion’s share of Internet traffic into Syria through their Mediterranean assets.

It is important to note that sanctions prevent US telecommunications firms from doing business in Syria, limiting STE’s choices (US carriers, Level 3 and Cogent, are major providers in neighboring Lebanon). Are other countries now simply following suit? Or are these changes the result of physical infrastructure damage? China, with strong economic ties to Syria, has imposed no such sanctions. Interestingly, with the diminishing role of western carriers, PCCW is left as a primary means for the Syrian people to document the ongoing conflict, such as via timely YouTube videos. Ultimately, telecommunications bans could prove counterproductive if they end up placing barriers to the free flow of information. SY.aug.all.traces.ASedges.upstreamsof29386.png

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  • “Ultimately, telecommunications bans could prove counterproductive if they end up placing barriers to the free flow of information. ”
    From my point of view, Syria’s government (who undoubtedly pulls the strings regarding their Internet connectivity) kills two birds with one stone here. They could profit from China’s deep knowledge of Internet censorship to suppress all information that currently flows more or less unhindered (tweets, youtube videos, blog entries, you name it).
    However, we have seen in Tunisia and Egypt that workarounds for this kind of censorship, even for complete blackouts, exist. I.e., cross-border dial-up or similar.
    I wonder if AS3320 is actually allowed to sell transit to Syria. Wouldn`t that fall under some kind of military technology embargo?

  • Mike

    It’s great Syria has internet connectivity but, could be a clearing house for gathering names of citizens against the Syrian government.


    It’s Hong Kong’s PCCW which keeps Syria online. PRC China voted against the peace action and let them bleed in UN!
    big difference between HKG and PRC China
    Hong Kong, not China keeping Syria online

  • aeoio

    There are many of the people didn`t understand the different of HKSAR & China. HKSAR already has a 15 years history and it`s a special region of China. But HK is still using common law and many of things are still keep English standard.

Whois: Doug Madory

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 focus on submarine cables.