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Lebanon ranks fourth in Arab world in bandwidth penetration

File - Caretaker Telecoms Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui gestures as he visits a local satellite station in Mount Lebanon.

BEIRUT: Lebanon improved its ranking among the Arab countries in terms of Internet bandwidth penetration, according to the United Nations.

The comprehensive report on the Cloud Economy and Developing Countries, which was released by ESCWA and UNCTAD Tuesday, noted that Lebanon moved to fourth place among the Arab countries in terms of bandwidth, measured in bits per second per user, from only 2,257 in 2011 to 22,825 in 2012.

The United Arab Emirates was the highest ranked Arab country in terms of IIB, followed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The number of Internet users in Lebanon grew rapidly in the past two years after the Telecoms Ministry and state-run Ogero introduced fast DSL and 3G and 4G service.

However, the sector is still plagued with many technical and administrative problems due to the tug of war between caretaker Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui and the director-general of Ogero, Abdul-Mounem Youssif.

Experts say that Lebanon should have much faster Internet thanks to the international capacity cables. They added that only a small fraction of the cable capacity was used in Lebanon.

However, the country did not perform as well in terms of fiber-to-the-home services.

According to the report, Lebanon has yet to introduce the FTTH as Sehnaoui promised earlier.

Eleven Arab countries have introduced FTTH services.

Internet is still considered very expensive even after the ministry slashed the price of DSL services more than a year ago.

But the report said that despite the progress made in the spread of broadband and cloud technology, Arab states in general were still behind many developed countries.

It added that cost of fixed broadband was one of the main impediments to access in the Arab region.

The UNCTAD Information Economy Report stressed that developing countries should consider addressing legal and regulatory concerns related to cloud computing.

“While there is no imperative to develop specific laws or regulations on cloud computing, key reform areas include privacy, data protection, information security and cybercrime.

“Governments of developing countries should adopt and enforce appropriate laws and regulations, the study urges. As of 2013, it notes, some 99 countries had data privacy laws.

“Although there is no harmonized international privacy framework regulating data transfers across borders, the implementation of strong domestic privacy regimes could benefit developing countries,” the report said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 04, 2013, on page 5.

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