Archive for the ‘Libya’ Category

The Libyan rebels are making progress, as well as robots. Some of them are reported to be within 40 miles of Tripoli, those being the ones who the French have been secretly arming, including with a number of light tanks. Now that’s what I call protecting civilians.

They are also about to take over the GSM network in western Libya like they did in the east. How do I know? I’m subscribed to the Telecom Tigers group on LinkedIn and so I get job adverts like these two.

ZTE BSC Job: URGENT send cv at [e-mail] for the job position or fw to your friends : Expert Telecom Engineer ZTE BSC.Location:Lybia,Western Area,1300USD/day,start immediate

URGENT send cv at [e-mail] for the job position or fw to your friends : ERICSSON MGW/BSS/BSC 2G/RAN Implementation Senior Expert Engineer.Location:Lybia,Gherian,Western Mountains,1300-1500 USD/day

In fact, one of the ads explicitly says that the job is in the rebel zone and the other is clear enough. What the rebels are planning to do is clear from the job descriptions:

must be able to install a ZTE latest generation BSC – platform to be integrated with 3rd party switching platform,solid knowledge of ZTE BSC build out and commissioning to connect up to 200 existing 2G/3G sites

To put it another way, they want to unhook the existing BTSs – the base stations – from Libyana and link them to a core system of their own, and in order to do this they need to install some Chinese-made Base Station Controllers (BSCs – the intermediary between the radio base stations and the central SS7 switch in GSM).

Here’s the blurb for the Ericsson post:

Responsible for commissioning and integrating an Ericsson 2G BSS network (2048-TRX Ericsson BSC plus Ericsson BTSs) in a multi-vendor environment. Will be responsible for taking the lead and ownership of all BSS commissioning and integration, leading the local team of BSS engineers, and managing the team through to completion of integration.

Experience of Ericsson MGW implementation, and integration of MGW with BSS, is highly desirable. Experience of optical transmission over A-interface.

Compilation, creation and coordination of BSC Datafill. This will include creating, generating, seeking and gathering of all Datafill components (Transport, RF Frequencies, neighbor relations, handovers, Switch parameters, ABIS mapping, etc.) based on experience and from examination of existing network configuration and data. Loading of Datafill into the BSC to facilitate BTS integration.

Working with the MSC specialists to integrate the BSC with the MSC. Providing integration support to BTS field teams; providing configuration and commissioning support to the BSC field team.

So they’ve got some Ericsson BSCs, the base stations are Ericsson too, and an MSC (Mobile Switching Centre, the core voice switch) has been found from somewhere – interesting that they don’t say who made it. That’ll be the “3rd party switching platform” referred to in the first job. They’re doing VoIP at some point, though, because they need a media gateway (MGW) to translate between traditional SS7 and SIP. They need engineers to integrate it all and to work out what the various configurations should be by studying what Gadhafi’s guys left. (It’s actually fairly typical that a mobile network consists of four or so different manufacturers’ kit, which keeps a lot of people in pies dealing with the inevitable implementation quirks.)

The successful candidate will also have some soft skills, too:

Willing to work flexible hours, excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to work under pressure in a challenging, diverse and dynamic environment with a variety of people and cultures.

You can say that again. Apparently, security is provided for anyone who’s up for the rate, which doesn’t include full board and expenses, also promised.

They already have at least one candidate.

ring ring! who’s there?

On the same day that NATO sort-of apologised for a fratricide incident in which a group of tanks the Libyan rebels had put into service were mistaken for Libyan government tanks, it turned out that the MOD was going to send the rebels 500 satellite phones. Well, you can see the point, but the first thing that came to mind was – what? now? why didn’t this happen weeks ago? Is this whole campaign being managed by clowns? And then, of course, I remembered Dave from PR and Sarko and Liam He’s a doctor, you know and Pocket Bismarck. Right.

But then, there’s the Big Society. This is a deeply cool story – Libyan GSM engineers work out how to take over the network in rebel territory and get it going again. The WSJ overstates some elements – it’s not so much that Gadhafi’s government designed the network to be centralised in Tripoli, GSM networks are very centralised by design – but overall it’s a pretty good account. They set up their own switch, home and visitor location registers, and international gateway with satellite connectivity, piped all the base station controllers in their territory into their own set-up, and obtained a copy of the original Libyana HLR with all the phone numbers. Fortunately they decided to let everyone make free calls (viva la revolucion!), or they’d have still been waiting for the billing system to be integrated six months later, whether in the minister’s office or the Libyan Lubyanka.

Ironically, they got quite a bit of help from, of all telcos, Etisalat, the UAE’s national operator. They lent them a lot of equipment and provided the satellite hookup and international access. This is amusing as Etisalat is famous for censoring more Web sites than the Chinese Great Firewall. For their part, the monster Chinese manufacturer Huawei refused to have anything to do with the rebels (or should that be “splittists”?)

This is good as far as it goes, but nobody in NATO CAOC-9 in Naples or the former AIRSOUTH now in Izmir or anywhere else with a NATO TLA is going to let random cell phones talk to the airpower infrastructure. Why didn’t anyone send those satellite phones earlier? Ah, yes, clowns.

Of course, there’s a possibility that they may have been worrying about releasing them into the wild. Here’s Secret Défense confirming assorted loose MANPADs wandering about. But they’re more trackable than arms, less directly dangerous, and far easier to buy anyway.

In other news, there’s a really excellent piece on the Toyota Land Cruiser as an engine of war in the FAZ, for German-speakers only.

This post brings several things to mind. Apparently, eastern Libya was a hugely overrepresented area among the international jihadis who went to Iraq and there exploded. Clearly, this means that you can’t assume that they’re fighting for democracy, whiskey, sexy.

However, it’s also very likely that this represented a deliberate policy on the part of the Libyan government to channel its dissidents into particular ideologies that its new friends also perceived as the enemy, and then to ship them out of the country and hope they would explode somewhere else. Making jihadis – repressing all other forms of dissidence, while not trying too hard to stop them recruiting or leaving the country – had the side benefit that it validated their claim to be a bastion of stability assailed by Islamic extremism. They could produce the extremists, after all. And it further allowed them to avoid burning all their bridges with the other side. If it became expedient to make friends with the terrorists again, they could produce the bloody shirts – the martyrdom videos – and demonstrate that they had been useful.

Of course, Gadhafi didn’t have to be an evil genius to come up with this plan – he was essentially copying Saudi Arabia’s homework, and depending on how you look at the relationship between the Egyptian regime and the Brothers, perhaps sneaking a look at the neighbours’ as well. Giddens may have thought they were going to be a new Norway, but the real plan was more like Saudi 2.0, probably right down to the hereditary government.

Another lesson from this is that they’re probably not going to give up easily.