Mobile network ecosystem
According to the country’s main Internet service provider (YemenNet), in 2011 there were 88,000 subscribers to high-speed ADSL services and about 500,000 subscribers to slower speed dial-up services. After that year the market grew to current levels thanks to 3G services for mobile phones.
The population accesses the Internet more frequently from mobile phones than from landlines, especially in the case of consumers, families and private individuals. Most companies and offices are equipped with regular Internet access with wireless systems, while individual usage has moved from using Internet cafés, which were very popular before and during the revolution of 2011 and before the 2014–15 coup d'état, to individual access via new or second-hand smartphones.
It is a great improvement in terms of connectivity considering that, until 2012, access to Internet was possible only at Internet cafés, making easier the surveillance of Internet users. Also, given the conservative nature of the Yemeni society, which discourages women from leaving their home unaccompanied, there were far fewer female Internet users than male. Today, Internet cafés are still open mainly in the city of Aden, while in the North, especially in the city of Sana’a, militias ordered the closure of most of them.
Telecommunications were extremely difficult in Yemen even before the war, due to poor infrastructure providing a chronically slow Internet connection. In the South of the country there is also limited phone coverage (as a result 80 percent of Yemeni areas are cut off the Internet). Since the war started, Houthi rebels took control of Yemen's main telecommunication infrastructures in the North, close to Sana’a, in the area under their rule. This is one of the main reasons behind the decision of Yemen's Minister for Telecommunications and Information Technology, Lutfi Bashareef, to launch the 4G network Aden Net, to end what he called “a siege on telecoms” in areas under government control. Another objective is to transfer the control of Yemen’s telecommunications and Internet network to the South, and as such to deprive the Houthis of millions of dollars coming from taxation of telecom operators under their control.
However, telecommunications were limited also before the conflict because of the attempts to sabotage by some militias, from al Qaeda to Houthi rebels, in different areas of the country. These sabotage efforts targeted the distribution of electricity, as well as the telecommunication lines. One of the most important power stations in the whole country, located in the South, in the city of Mukalla, has in fact been repeatedly assaulted by AQAP militias since 2014.
The ongoing war has exacerbated things not only in villages and in the deserts or up in the mountains, but even in city centres. Since the end of 2014, during the turmoil in the North, people started experiencing lack of fuel to refill generators at home, in schools, shops and offices. Since the beginning of the war many people have often been left without mobile network, as well as electricity, for hours and sometimes even days. After 2017, the mobile network has improved in speed and coverage, especially in the cities, with a significant improvement in Sana'a. At the same time an independent network named Adennet has been established in the city of Aden, also to avoid the network's dependence on the areas controlled by the Houthi rebels. It operates only in the South, depending on the supply of electricity.