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The Daily Star
THURSDAY, 17 APR 2014
03:36 PM Beirut time
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Sehnaoui: 4G technology just over the horizon
Sehnaoui: Lebanon has the ideal conditions to succeed in developing the technology industry.
Sehnaoui: Lebanon has the ideal conditions to succeed in developing the technology industry.
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BEIRUT: Lebanon will get much-needed higher internet capacity via a Cyprus submarine cable, the telecoms minister said Monday, adding that the fourth-generation mobile communications (4G) will be pilot tested in February.

“To give you a few numbers, we have for this purpose, right now, 200 Gigabytes/s on IMEWE [cable] and very soon 700 [Gbps] on Alexandros,” Nicolas Sehnaoui told American University of Beirut students and professors at a lecture.

Last year, the minister announced that Cyprus and Lebanon would work together on a new submarine cable dubbed Europa. The cable will allow Lebanon to share transmission capacity of the Alexandros cable, an international cable which has landings in Cyprus, Egypt and France.

The minister did not mention a specific date for the completion of the project and was not available for a comment.

Lebanon improved the DSL internet speeds two years ago but despite the improvement the country still lags behind most other countries in the region in terms of broadband and fiber optics connections.

In his motivational speech to AUB students, Sehnaoui presented his vision to develop the digital sectors. He argued that Lebanon has the ideal conditions to succeed in developing the industry.

He said Lebanon possessed some of the most creative talent, adding that it had one of the highest ratios of engineers globally. Financing needs can be easily met, he added, through high banking sector liquidity.

He said that the Central Bank, in coordination with his ministry, was mulling schemes to create venture capital and private equity funds, in a bid to provide more finances.

He noted that with the right infrastructure, which his ministry is working to set up, Lebanon could become competitive in software development and become a regional digital hub.

He also announced that his ministry was preparing a law that would legalize voice-over-Internet protocol, reducing the price of international calls.

The infrastructure upgrades, Sehnaoui argued, would allow Lebanon to create a digital economy that can provide employment and help correct what he described a as “dysfunctional economic model.”

“The financial sector is already stretched to the maximum. Tourism is too dependent on the political weather. The Lebanese economic model is in crisis. We cannot be competitive with heavy industry or agriculture,” he said.

“Instead of leaving Lebanon we can sell our ideas and unleash our minds from right here, virtually and online.”

During the AUB speech, Sehnaoui launched a gaming website, betheminister.com, where winners will get the chance to be the telecoms minister for one day or be one of 200 4G pilot testers. Results will be announced Feb. 20, just before the 4G pilot phase is launched.

Earlier, the minister said Lebanon would start enjoying faster Internet connection before the end of the year once the infrastructure work was completed.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 29, 2013, on page 5.
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