Myanmar Internet Disruptions

Before Egypt became the country known for shutting off its international Internet during anti-government protests in January 2011, it was Myanmar that was known for infamously shutting down its Internet connections for two weeks following anti-government protests which turned violent in September 2007.During those protests, as the government began cracking down on anti-government demonstrations, protestors began sending out images and videos of the violent suppression. This led to the government’s disconnection of outside Internet access for the country. state-seal-of-myanmar

Last week, marked the 25th anniversary of the 8888 Uprising which led to the bloody overthrow of the socialist government in 1988 replacing it with a military junta which ruled Myanmar until its recent conversion to democracy. Each year there are demonstrations to mark the anniversary of the 8888 Uprising, so-called because it occurred on 8 August 1988 (8/8/88). In the recent days leading up to this important date, Internet connections in Myanmar experienced numerous disruptions which we analyze here.

Internet in Myanmar

Internet access in Myanmar is controlled entirely through state-owned Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT). Myanmar, through MPT, gains international Internet access through either the international submarine cable SeaMeWe-3 which lands at Pyapon, or through a terrestrial connection to Thailand.

In the weeks preceding the recent 25th anniversary of the 8888 Uprising, Myanmar’s Internet experienced several technical disruptions leading to concern about the nation’s recent transition to democracy and liberalization of its economy.

Internet Disruptions

When we look at our traceroute measurement data into Myanmar over the past few weeks we can see the moment of the first disruption at 10:46 UTC on 22 July which was initially blamed on an outage of SeaMeWe-3 cable. An MPT spokesman later changed the explanation of the outage to be a break in a terrestrial connection leading to the submarine cable landing station. The graphic below shows the counts of traceroute measurements from over 100 locations around the world reaching MPT colored by their international provider:

45558.traces.all.ASedges.upstreamsof45558

It is worth noting that while MPT uses a total of six international Internet providers (a decent level of provider diversity), remarkably, every one of these six providers was unavailable at some point during the past month.

When we alter the view of the same data to get a sense for the latencies involved, we can see that after the initial 22 July disruption, latencies began a diurnal pattern suggesting greater congestion during peak periods of use:

latencies_MMoutage_AllSources_b_s-1

On 5 August, all routed networks to Myanmar were withdrawn from the global routing table for a little over an hour resulting in a brief, but total Internet disconnection.

By 8 August, Internet connectivity in Myanmar reached a new equilibrium with Telekom Malaysia (TMnet) now in the mix. The shifting stories from MPT about the causes of the disruptions have left some to question the credibility of the telecom.

45558_MM-1

Last month, MPT announced a joint effort with China Unicom to build a terrestrial communications line to China in order to provide additional Internet redundancy for Myanmar.  An additional terrestrial line would improve the physical transit diversity of Myanmar’s Internet potentially increasing its resilience to future disruptions. With a natural gas pipeline from Myanmar to China already in the works, it is likely that the pipeline project will provide a direct physical path to lay a new communications line between the countries. burma-pipelines1
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  1. [...] Myanmar Internet Disruptions - From network monitoring specialist Renesys: “In the weeks preceding the recent 25th anniversary of the 8888 Uprising, Myanmar’s Internet experienced several technical disruptions leading to concern about the nation’s recent transition to democracy and liberalization of its economy.”> [...]

  2. [...] Myanmar Internet Disruptions - From network monitoring specialist Renesys: “In the weeks preceding the recent 25th anniversary of the 8888 Uprising, Myanmar’s Internet experienced several technical disruptions leading to concern about the nation’s recent transition to democracy and liberalization of its economy.”> [...]