Misurata rebels given mobile network by man behind ‘Free Libyana’

26 Jul 2011

According to TheRegister.co.uk, UAE-based telecoms executive Ousama Abushagur – a Libyan national who was raised in Alabama – has assisted rebel forces in the implementation of a second mobile network, this time in the country’s third largest city, Misurata. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in April 2011 Abushagur coordinated the construction of an independent mobile network in Eastern Libya, after rebels were cut off from the country’s centralised infrastructure. ‘Free Libyana’ was supplied with the necessary telecoms equipment by UAE telecoms giant Etisalat, which stepped in when Chinese telecoms manufacturer Huawei rejected Abushagur’s approach; an unnamed Libyan businessman based in the UAE bankrolled the project. The original network was rolled out by a team of international telecoms engineers – three Libyans and four Westerners – who flew to Egypt before crossing the border into Libya and commencing work in the rebel-held capital Benghazi.

This time engineers arrived by fishing boat, having endured a 30-hour boat trip from Malta. The engineers brought in equipment from Malta, and integrated it into a solitary Ericsson base station – one of the few still standing after the recent hostilities. Backhaul to the Free Libyana network is not possible at present – as the rebels do not actually hold the intervening land – and therefore relies on a satellite uplink. As a result, users need to be registered manually with the network, which in turn allows the operator to restrict connectivity to genuine locals, rather than government sympathisers that have been left behind. Like ‘Free Libyana’, the Misurata network does not charge users for domestic calls, having been funded entirely by donations solicited by Abushagur, mainly from fellow Libyan expatriates.