Businesses breathe in relief as Lebanon goes back online

FILE - Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui, second right, visits a local satellite station in Mount Lebanon. (The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Internet connection was restored to normal Friday as online businesses expressed relief to see their operations resume by midday. “Upon our request, Cyprus agreed to give us 10 GB/s free additional bandwidth until technical problems have been resolved,” Sehnaoui said from Cyprus on his Twitter page.

Sehnaoui had traveled to Cyprus Friday morning in an attempt to negotiate linking Lebanon through submarine cables operated by Mediterranean island. “Changes have just been applied a few minutes ago. This will increase the speed back to normal all over Lebanon,” he added in a second tweet around 1 p.m. Friday.

However, an industry source said the connection speed was restored to about 70 percent of its full capacity, pending the completion of repairs to the IMEWE (India-Middle East-Western Europe) submarine cable.

In a statement issued earlier, state-owned land-line provider Ogero said its technical teams were able to operate three reserve cables, adding some 6 GB/s of Internet capacity.

The statement by Ogero added that their team was working with its counterparts in Egypt until the IMEWE submarine cable was fully repaired.

In earlier comments to Al-Jadeed television channel, Sehnaoui explained that Cyprus had agreed to provide Lebanon with the extra international capacity free of charge for 15 days.

Sehnaoui added that repairing the IMEWE could take a week or even more. However, he denied any link between problems encountered by 3G users and the Internet blackout. Online e-commerce websites offering services in Lebanon resumed their operations by midday though their slumping sales have yet to improve.

Sophia Sakr, a representative of ScoopCity.com, a website offering online discounted deals, said the website’s activity returned to normal after two very slow days. “So far, everything is back to normal. But our sales are not as high as they used to be. Perhaps some people have not been informed yet that [connections have been restored],” she said.

While ScoopCity was facing no problems in processing online payments, the website had to extend the duration of many deals, Sakr said. Delays and being offline during the blackout could impact the site’s revenues, she added.

Rami Khawand, a founding-partner at Evolve, a company specialized in e-commerce solutions, echoed Sakr. “It seems to be back to normal,” he said but complained that the company was still experiencing some brief outages.

Khawand added that the company’s productivity had suffered over the past tow days. “Work that usually took a few hours to complete was taking us half a day,” he said, adding that outages restrict work to offline functions.

But for Khawand, real losses in revenues and productivity happen throughout the year. “Slow Internet has a huge impact on our business,” he said.

Later in the day, Internet provider IDM also pointed out that Internet connection had been restored to normal. “Performance is almost back to normal. Subscribers might still experience some slowness though, due to the rush accessing the Internet after two days of disconnection and degraded performance,” read a statement issued by the company Friday.

Lebanon suffered from two nationwide Internet blackouts this week. The first one took place Monday and lasted three hours, while the other occurred Wednesday evening and continued until early Friday.

While the first blackout resulted from prescheduled upgrade work on a cable near Marseille, France, the second was a result of a major failure on the same cable near Alexandria, Egypt.

The 13,000-kilometer cable connects India to Italy and France via the Middle East. It has an overall capacity of 3.84 terabits per second. The cable has landings in Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt in addition to Lebanon.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 07, 2012, on page 1.




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