Telecommunications: The New Houthi-Government Battle in Yemen

2024-06-08 12:04 PM UTC


The Yemeni government directed telecommunications companies based in Sanaa to move their headquarters to Aden, another move by the internationally recognized government to tighten its control on state institutions.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology in Aden issued an order to mobile phone companies stating, "they must urgently complete the necessary procedures to rectify the companies' conditions, and commit to transferring their administrative, technical and financial headquarters to Aden, to obtain the necessary licenses."

The Ministry warned that flouting the orders would compel it "to take measures in accordance with the law, and according to the government's decisions and the relevant reports of the Central Organization for Control and Accounting."

This move was preceded by some similar decisions over the past few days. On Wednesday, the Ministry of Transport instructed Yemenia Airways to transfer its revenues to its bank accounts in Aden or overseas, a move many economic experts describe as a "new blow" to the authorities in Sanaa.

The Central Bank in Aden also stopped transactions with Sanaa-based commercial banks after they failed to shift their headquarters from Sanaa to Aden and threatened to take more punitive measures.

With the government's determination to fully control the telecommunications sector, the Houthi group would lose a huge intelligence and financial advantage. These procedures, government officials say, aim at drying up the sources of funding for the Houthi group, which has been controlling Sanaa and much of the territories of Yemen's north since 2015.

The Houthi authorities in Sanaa collect revenues from the telecommunications sector through the sales of Internet and telecommunications services, taxes on public and private telecommunications companies, and fees for renewing licenses for private companies in addition to controlling the revenues of private telecommunications companies such as YOU, Sabafon, and Y Telecom.

A report by Yemen Mobile Company for the fiscal year 2021 showed that the total amount of money collected by the Houthi authorities exceeded 52 billion Yemeni riyals (equivalent to approximately 203 million dollars).

Moreover, the annual revenues of the Houthi-controlled public telecommunications institutions exceed 122 billion Yemeni riyals annually (equivalent to approximately 488 million dollars), according to reports.

Reports also revealed that the Houthi authorities collected 92.2 billion Yemeni riyals as zakat and taxes on the telecommunications sector in 2023. They also collected 47 billion Yemeni riyals in return for renewing telecommunications company licenses and imposing other administrative fees.

The technology and telecommunications sector in Yemen is managed by the sole operator, Teleyemen Company, and the Public Telecommunications Corporation. These corporations are under the control and management of the Houthi group, and this allows them to completely control this sector and use it as a repressive weapon to control information channels and the privacy of subscribers, a previous report by Sheba Intelligence said.

The report quoted sources saying that the authorities in Sanaa began the procedures for establishing the information bank in July 2022. The information bank is a "top-secret" cloud system that stores, records, and tracks all users of Internet and communications services. 


The report indicated the information bank works to create a personal file containing details of the sites the user visited. The system saves search and viewing records and obtains program usage data.  


The source added that this system will be linked to telecommunications companies to obtain records of calls, messages, and usage, forming an integrated file of all operations performed by the user.


Since it toppled the Yemeni government in 2015, the Houthi group has maintained an iron grip on the telecommunications sector, enabling itself to generate income and collect the needed intelligence. It remains to be seen how the Houthi-government telecommunications battle will end up.