Lebanese Telecoms Minister Marwan Hamadeh promised yesterday that DSL internet connections will be made available on 5 May in areas including Greater Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, Jounieh and Jbeil. According to the minister, 23 of the largest sections of national incumbent Ogero’s PSTN will be DSL-capable by the launch date. However, prospective users will face delays in receiving the new service if Ogero is only able to connect the 20-25 customers per day that it has promised ISPs including IDM, said IDM executive director Maroun Chammas. Switching on new connections at this rate would allow a yearly maximum of 6,600 new DSL connections. ‘This is extremely low and it’s not going to work,’ said Mr Chammas, ‘Ogero should be able to process at least ten times this number.’
The Telecoms Ministry had planned to ensure the availability of DSL last October, but the war with Israel delayed improvements in the undersea cable connecting Lebanon to the internet. To allow for DSL connections, the international bandwidth had to be upgraded approximately ten-fold to more than one gigabit, Hamadeh said. ‘If the political situation normalises or at least stays quiet, I think it’s going to be a driving force for Lebanon’s economy, he added.
Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) chairman Kamal Shehadi said that he recognised the economic importance of high speed internet, and that the TRA would ensure that Ogero meets the probable surge in demand in a timely fashion. He added that a sluggish rollout of DSL would only encourage a new wave of illegal ISPs, which currently control an estimated 30% of the market but would likely be put out of business by fast and reliable DSL connections. Up to 100,000 residential internet users connect via ‘illegal’ cables, which use satellite connections for downloads and local ISPs for uploads. This costs around USD50 for connection, plus USD40 to USD50 per month.
ISPs have not released final DSL prices, but Ogero has proposed installation for LBP55,000 (USD37), while a residential 256kbps connection would cost LBP50,000 per month, 512kbps LBP70,000 and 1Mbps LBP115,000. Businesses would pay slightly higher prices.