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French Version

DSL can increase Lebanon's Internet usage

A leading telecom expert urged the government to choose an appropriate infrastructure service in order to modernize the Internet sector.

Riyad Bahsoun, chairman of the Middle East International Telecommunication Union, was commenting on a recently released report by the Arab Adviser Group that said the introduction of the Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) service in 2006, would possibly contribute to a significant rise in Internet usage and decrease in black market Internet Service Providers (ISP).

According to Bahsoun, the "Telecommunication Ministry should concentrate on more up-to-date technology such as fiber to the home (FTTH) to quickly fill the important gap from which Lebanon is suffering."

DSL is high-speed Internet system using a sophisticated modulation scheme to pack data onto copper wires such as telephone line, whereas FTTH uses fiber-optic cables that have enormous bandwidth and use light pulses to carry information and can be placed underground.

"Between 2005 and 2009, we project Lebanon's Internet market to grow by 14.8 percent to reach 400,000 accounts in 2009," reaching the one-million-user milestone in 2009, and around 656,000 in 2004, according to the Arab Adviser Group Report.

Although the introduction of DSL services can be a factor for decrease in pirating activities, as it would make Internet a less-costly service, it is far from being the only one said Cyberia's CEO Bassam Jaber.

"The government will find it in its interest to step in to make sure people supplying illegally are sanctioned as they are not paying taxes" added Jaber.

According to Bahsoun "The Arab Advisers Group saw an opportunity to sell a report based on a conversation with the former telecommunications minister that mentioned the possibility of installing DSL equipment."

"In order to increase the speed carried by the existing public infrastructure, public switch telephony network and allow the provisioning of data services, you need to improve the existing copper wires by adding DSL equipment (modem switches)" said Bahsoun.

The resulting increase in speed is tremendous: four times higher than the current connection Lebanese experience.

In Lebanon there is a project considered at the Telecommunication Ministry known as the Public Data Network that aims to achieve this objective.

"But this project has been under consideration for six years now and was never implemented and will likely not be in the near future" said Bahsoun.

Lebanon has the weakest Internet infrastructure in the Arab world. "Even the West Bank and Sudan has DSL despite all the unrest these two regions witness," said Bahsoun, adding that the successive lobbying could not get the government to expand Internet capacity. As a result, Lebanon has the lowest level in terms of Internet technology today compared to 1996 when it was leading the region said Bahsoun.

"The current minister is really interested in finding the best solution for the sector," said Jaber, assuring that the government has never been as serious about the issue as it is today. Jaber estimated that DSL technology would be installed in approximately three months.

Beirut 29-08-2005
Bechir Saade
The Daily Star

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