DSL Internet COMING MAY 5th to Lebanon!

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DSL Internet COMING MAY 5th to Lebanon!

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Hamadeh vows to have DSL in place by May 5
Minister says move will boost economy

By Michael Bluhm
Daily Star staff
Friday, April 13, 2007

BEIRUT: Lebanese Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh promised on Thursday that high-speed DSL Internet connections will be launched May 5, but questions linger over how fast monopoly telecom operator Ogero will be able to connect the expected flood of customers to the new service.

Hamadeh told The Daily Star that 23 of the largest sections of the telecommunications grid will be capable of handling DSL lines by the May 5 launch, including the Greater Beirut area, Tripoli, Sidon, Jounieh and Jbeil. DSL connects users to the Internet permanently through fixed telephone lines, and Hamadeh touted the potential for DSL to goose the flagging economy by allowing faster and more dependable communication.

"If the political situation normalizes or at least stays quiet, I think it's going to be a driving force for Lebanon's economy," Hamadeh said. "I'm sure to start the first few ones at the end of this month. I'm already installing my equipment."

However, the benefits might be long delayed if Ogero is only able to connect the 20-25 customers per day that it promised Internet service providers (ISPs) such as IDM, said IDM executive director Maroun Chammas. Connecting 25 customers per day would allow a yearly maximum of 6,600 DSL connections from the country's roughly 300,000 existing users.

"This is extremely low and it's not going to work," he said. "Ogero should be able to process at least 10 times this number."

Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) chairman Kamal Shehadi said he recognized the economic importance of high-speed Internet and the TRA would ensure that Ogero meets the probable surge in demand in a timely fashion. A sluggish rollout of DSL would only spur the creation of another network of illegal Internet providers, who now control an estimated 30 percent of the market but would likely be put out of business by fast and reliable DSL connections.

"We want to make sure there is as rapid a dissemination of DSL and broadband as possible in a commercially viable way," Shehadi said. "It would be reasonable to expect most customers to switch to DSL as soon as possible. It is incumbent on [Ogero] to meet this demand and customers need to be informed of this timetable.

"If the operator is only able to connect a fraction of the customers per day, there could be a problem of a parallel black market developing. We will have to work to avoid a black market. This is very critical that we get this right."

Ogero officials have not answered repeated requests for interviews over the past two weeks. ISPs provided Ogero months ago with estimates of demand for DSL, but Ogero has yet to submit to the TRA any written commitment on installation procedures.

The Telecommunications Ministry had planned to have DSL available last October, but the 2006 war with Israel delayed improvements in the undersea cable connecting Lebanon to the Internet. To allow for DSL connections, the international bandwidth had to grow by a factor of about 10 to more than 1 gigabit, Hamadeh said.

ISPs have not released final DSL prices, but Ogero has proposed installation for LL55,000 (about $37), while 128-kbps service would cost LL35,000 monthly for home users; 256 kbps would cost LL50,000, 512 kbps LL70,000 and 1.024 mbps LL115,000. Businesses would pay slightly higher prices.
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