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French Version

Lebanon one step closer to DSL service

Despite initial skepticism on the part of Internet service providers (ISP), high-speed Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Lines (commonly known as DSL) may be coming to Lebanon after all - though the precise date of the launch has yet to be declared. The Cabinet took the first step towards bringing DSL to Lebanon last week by lowering the tariff for data-providers to connect to the state-owned international cable.

According to a source at the Ministry of Telecommunication, the Cabinet lowered the tariff by 50 percent. The cut applies to the cost of regular dial-up Internet as well, although the change will not be effective immediately.

"Once all the legal hurdles are removed and decrees passed in a proper manner there will be the possibility to offer DSL, but it's not instantaneous," said Patrick Farajian, Sodetel General Manager, who estimated that his company would start offering DSL by September.

"We need data providers and to install equipment, and that will take time."

Farajian said Sodetel already has approximate prices for different DSL connection speeds: 120 kilobytes/second (kb) for $24; 256 kb for $33; 512kb for $46-50; and 1 Mb for $76.

These are lower than original estimates, which placed the average cost of DSL at $50 a month - significantly higher than the regional benchmark.

The Cabinet still has at least one more decree to sign before ISPs can begin the initial pilot program, during which DSL service will be offered on a limited scale to select customers in Beirut before being made available nationwide.

However, before DSL can be offered nationally, the ministry must follow through on its promise to drastically increase the capacity of the international telecom connection to meet the anticipated demand.

"We still have the same problem now as we had before: international bandwidth," said Kamel Shehadi, managing director of Connexus Consulting, a telecom regulation consulting agency.

Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamade previously told The Daily Star there was a bottleneck at the international connection, but that the ministry was committed to fixing it.

"The ministry has been paralyzed for years while the main items discussed were conflicts with the mobile companies," he said. "Now that we are out of this mess we can address the issue of broadband."

Executive Director of Internet Data Management Maroun Chammass was optimistic the ministry would complete the necessary improvements in time to offer DSL throughout the country.

"We need to physically increase the capacity between Lebanon and the outside, and this takes some time and equipment," he said. "But it's not a long-term project; they should have it done by September."

In a separate decision last week, the ministry reduced the cost of international and local phone calls by 40 percent starting April 15.

Beirut 18-04-2006
Meris Lutz
The Daily Star

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