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Sehnaoui: Lebanese Internet to be world-leading
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BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Information Technology sector will be one of the most advanced in the world after the Telecommunications Ministry finishes revamping the country’s telecoms network, Telecommunications Minister Nicholas Sehnaoui said at his first news conference as Minister Friday.

The Cabinet signed off on a game-changer Internet decree Tuesday night, slashing end-user DSL prices by 80 percent and boosting speeds by four to eight times.

Prices listed in the decree represent the maximum amount that ISPs may charge consumers.

“What we’re doing in the ministry will turn the sector on its head; it will unleash huge amounts of economic and human power, which is currently latent, or is being exported,” said Sehnaoui.

“It’s going to make Lebanon become one of the most advanced countries in the field of Information Technology and Multimedia Creativity.”

It was a transcontinental Internet cable, known as the India-Middle East-Western Europe submarine cable, that set off the refurbishing of telecoms. Lebanon subscribed to the IMEWE in December, 2010, and began to consume from its relatively abundant bandwidth in mid-June.

The IMEWE added 10Giga bits to Lebanon’s 2.5 Giga bit network, considered to be the slowest in the world. It has the capacity to provide the country with an additional 330 Giga bits, but a more up-to-date cable infrastructure is needed to fully exploit it.

Internet Service Providers will enjoy a major drop in prices of bandwidth telecommunications lines, known as Leased Lines – Sehnaoui said they will be the cheapest in the Arab world, allowing Lebanon “to return to its place as a regional center.”

The decree is set to come into force on Oct. 1.

“I promise the Lebanese that they will see an achievement [from the Ministry] on a monthly basis for as long as the Cabinet is still standing,” said Sehnaoui.

In mid-September, Lebanon will see the launch of the 3G network, a significantly faster version of current Internet connections for mobile phones which are known as WAP.

Four thousand mobile users will benefit from 3G’s September pilot study; 25 percent of them students.

After that, 3G will make phased forays into the rest of Lebanon’s mobile phone sector. It’s expected that the technology will increase Internet penetration rates by about 30 percent.

The new DSL package is also expected to raise penetration rates by about 40 percent.

Services previously banned or made inaccessible by sluggish speeds will be made available by the new decree. These include IPTV, e-commerce and banking, teleconferencing, and Voice-Over IP.

The decree, said Sehnaoui, was the result of “solid cooperation” between the ministry and ISPs, adding that he was confident they would fully abide by the decree.

Internet users will not have to set up connections and modems to enjoy the new connections, explained the minister’s advisers. ISPs will transfer bolstered speeds by cable wire.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 27, 2011, on page 4.
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