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Lebanon to finally enter DSL era

Lebanon is expected to launch high-speed DSL Internet in 2006 in an attempt to meet the growing market demand. This high-speed technology, bringing high-bandwidth information to homes and businesses over ordinary telephone lines, will be launched in january 2006, said Ogero, the government-owned telecom operator.

Ogero and the Telecommunication Ministry could spread this message at the 12th annual Termium Hometech, Levant's largest IT trade fair.

"We had the technology for ages. But it took some time to deal with the regulations and licenses for the DSL providers. Now we have to take care that the price development will be appropriate," said Issam Mehanna from Ogero. While a current telephone extension with Internet connection costs between $20 and $25, a correlative package with DSL technology shall not cost more than between $40 and $50 per month.
Mehanna made these remarks at The 12th Termium Hometech, taking place at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure Center (BIEL) which opened on November 29.

The show features a showcase of IT software, hardware, services and solutions like E-commerce applications, but also the latest trends of the visual, audiovisual and advertising sector.

Over 150 Lebanese and Arab companies are taking part in the five-day event.

"The government shouldn't be too proud of that. We already have the next-generation network which is fully IP-compatible and way faster than DSL," said Riad Bahson, a telecom expert.

"But I wonder if we ever get that. In this country it takes a whole council of ministers to decide over every single policy," he added.

Still, Internet consumers, developers and entrepreneurs will appreciate DSL as a beginning. "The political frame drags behind the possibilities we have. Lebanese programmers are the best in the region. We cannot afford a brain drain," according to Camille Moukarzel, a board member of the Professional Computer Association (PCA) and one of the organizers of the Termium Hometech exhibition.

"Politically and economically, we had a turbulent year," he adds. "But the growth rates in Lebanon's hi-tech industry are still promising."

With 9.8 percent, the IT sector in the Middle East has grown more than double the world average in the last year. For Lebanon the PCA shows an almost 20-percent growth rate, mainly due to software products.

But are there enough well-funded consumers who can afford the stuff? "It is not a question of income," says Wassim Renno, a hardware company sales manager.

"Lebanese are very consumer-oriented. They want the features whatever it costs." In his words, 17-inch laptops and wire-less communication are all the rage.

Beirut,12 05 2005
The Daily Star
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