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Lebanon Loses Lone Link

Prior to the recent activation of Internet service to Lebanon via the IMEWE submarine cable, Internet service in Lebanon was labeled the “world’s slowest” due to its dependence on a combination of antiquated submarine cables built in the mid-1990’s and high-latency satellite service. However, as high-speed Internet service via IMEWE expanded in recent months, today’s outage reveals Lebanon’s new dependence on this lone modern connection to the outside world.

For almost three hours today, Lebanon experienced a near complete nationwide Internet outage. Between 16:13 and 18:59 UTC, we observed as many as 842 of the approximately 900 routed prefixes in Lebanon withdrawn from the global routing table, as illustrated in the graphic on the right. During this period of time, we saw almost every routed prefix downstream of incumbent Liban (AS42020) withdrawn. At 17:45 UTC, we saw these networks restored only to be withdrawn once again minutes later.


In an interview immediately following the restoration of Internet service, Lebanese Minister of Telecommunication, Nicolas Sehnaoui, stated that the outage was a result of unannounced maintenance on the IMEWE cable serving Lebanon and has threatened to file a complaint with the Attorney General of Lebanon against top officials at OGERO, Liban Telecom’s fixed line arm.


The two graphs below illustrate traceroute measurements into Lebanon through the two largest International internet providers serving the Lebanese market. Like the routing outage graphic above, we observe a near—total cessation of completing traceroute measurements except for a brief restoration of service at 17:45 UTC. The red in the graph on the right is satellite provider, SatGate, (AS30721) coming online to provide backup service.

t3-lb.txt.ASedges.downstreamsof3356.png t3-lb.txt.ASedges.downstreamsof174.png

Just as in the routing data, we can observe a brief restoration of trace-based reachability at around 17:45 UTC before service is lost again. If it does turn out that this outage was caused by maintenance on IMEWE, then it is likely that the networks which survived the outage connected to the Internet using one of the other older cable systems serving Lebanon.

What does it all mean? Lebanon has struggled for years to find the political and technical keys to sustainable Internet growth and stability, and the landing (and activation) of the IMEWE cable has been a major step forward. But today’s outage demonstrates that building provider-level and transport-level diversity are equally important strategic goals. Following worldwide best practices, Lebanon’s banks, businesses, universities, and government offices need to study their connections to the Internet and, if necessary, request that they follow multiple independent paths. A single provider’s temporary difficulties shouldn’t switch off the entire nation.

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  • Ihab

    Yes I agree Michael; I would attribute Monday’s incident to a maintenance carried out by Ogero on it’s distribution point rather than an IMEWE maintenance.
    As for today, we are still without our IMEWE. According to several news sources this issue will take days to fix.
    You can read more at the National News Agency but since it is hosted in Lebanon, I’ll save you the pain of waiting:
    ” NNA – 5/7/2012 – Telecommunications Ministry announced on Thursday that the Internet blackout, expected to last for days, is due to a malfunction of IMEWE, a submarine fiber-optic cable linking Lebanon to international Internet capacities, located 50 kilometers in the sea off Alexandria city in Egypt.
    The Ministry is following up on the issue with both Egypt and Cyprus, in collaboration with OGERO.
    The Crisis Management Cell, which Telecoms Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui has formed, is carrying on contacts and meetings in a bid to provide temporary solutions.

  • Ihab

    So Mr Sihnaoui sent out an SMS to all of Lebanon just to inform them that “internet is back to normal” but neither are we back on I-ME-WE, nor is the bandwidth / latency REMOTELY what it used to be. It’s interesting to note that TWO years ago the Ministry of Telecommunication signed an agreement with Cyprus to have bigger bandwidth rights of the newly upgraded CADMOS. CADMOS is now capable of handling 40 Gbps according to several websites and Lebanon is entitled to 38% of that or roughly 15 Gbps; so, it would be technically incorrect for Mr Sihnaoui to state that we got 10 Gbps for free! We have an agreement! Besides if that’s how much we have, why is my connection being routed on a satellite link?

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.