Huge drop in Internet traffic after shut down.

Mobile phone services restored in Egypt

Vodafone has restored voice services to customers in Egypt, after it was shut down by Egyptian authorities following protests calling for President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

The political protests in Egypt have claimed the lives of more than 100 people, and have seen protestors camped out in central Cairo vowing to stay until they have toppled the Egyptian president.

Telecoms operator Vodafone said it restored voice services to customers as soon as it was able.

“We would like to make it clear that the authorities in Egypt have the technical capability to close our network, and if they had done so it would have taken much longer to restore services to our customers.

“It has been clear to us that there were no legal or practical options open to Vodafone, or any of the mobile operators in Egypt, but to comply with the demands of the authorities,” a statement from Vodafone said.

In an attempt to stop the frenzied online spread of dissent against the Egyptian president, the entire Internet was shut down by authorities last week. Hundreds of service providers offer connections in Egypt, but just four own the infrastructure - Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt and Etisalat Misr.

United States-based Internet monitoring firm Renesys said virtually all of Egypt’s Internet addresses became unreachable worldwide. A few large organisations with independent connections were able to stay connected to the Internet.

Iran, Tunisia and most recently Syria have imposed Internet restrictions in attempts to quell opposition, but Egypt's is by far the most drastic move so far. The closest precedent has been in China, which has more Internet users than any other country and also the strictest controls. It cut off Internet access to its Xinjiang region for almost a year after deadly ethnic unrest in 2009.

The world's biggest social network Facebook, and Twitter with its real-time mini-blog posts, have proved extraordinarily effective in gathering large numbers of people together and helping them to be nimble in dodging the authorities.

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