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French Version


Cedarcom wires Beirut for mobile wireless Internet

One of Lebanon's four licensed Internet carriers has launched mobile wireless Internet service in greater Beirut, and plans to expand into Mount Lebanon and Tripoli within the next two weeks.

Though fixed broadband Internet access is already available to the subscribers of certain Internet service providers (ISPs), Cedarcom is the first carrier to offer mobile broadband connectivity across the capital, allowing laptop users to sign on from Jounieh to Khalde and other designated areas.

The wireless broadband will be competing with fixed digital Internet service, if and when the long-awaited introduction of DSL takes place. While the CEO and chairman of Cedarcom admits mobile broadband costs more than fixed DSL in terms of prices, his firm is targeting users who are willing to pay a premium for mobility.

"We will never be as cheap as DSL, but every user profile is different. We are catering to company executives and students, people who don't want to be connected to power outlets to use the Internet," Imad Tarabay told The Daily Star in a telephone interview.

"Look at it this way. You pay $0.03 cents per minute to talk on a fixed [telephone line], but on mobile you pay $0.13. You're paying more to be mobile."

Local ISPs Cyberia, Linx, IDM, and Sodetel, and Broadband Plus, are currently featuring Cedarcom mobile packages, and Tarabay said two more ISPs will be joining in 2007. The three service plans range in cost and capacity - 256 kilobytes per second (kbps) for a monthly fee of $50, 512 kbps for $80 dollars per month, and 1 megabyte per second for $120 - and pre-paid and post-paid cards are also available.

The rates, while more affordable than 3-G wireless service available in the Gulf, are still steep compared to those in countries with competitive telecom markets. The $50 dollar package gives the user 1.5 gigabytes of bandwidth - downloading a two-hour DVD requires around 4 gigabytes - meaning the service will suit users who need to be constantly connected to the Internet.

Cedarcom received a license from the Ministry of Telecommunications in 1997 and has been offering fixed broadband service to corporations since 2003. Tarabay estimated Cedarcom's market share reached 30 percent in 2006. Under Cedarcom's profit-sharing agreement with the ministry, 20 percent of its broadband Internet revenues go to the state.

Beirut 13-12-2006
Lysandra Ohrstrom
The Daily Star



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