Friday, April 13, 2007

Fast Internet arrives in Lebanon…40 years from now

Some good news today: the minister of Telecom Marwan Hamadeh has announced that fast internet (DSL) will be launched by May 5. I remember hearing these promises ever I came Lebanon in 2001, but this time around, of course, it must be true. One small detail, though: the roll-out of DSL will happen at the amazing speed of 20-25 customers a day. There are roughly 300,000 Internet users so the last customer will be connected some 40 years from now…sigh…

Luckily, all those involved realize that this is unacceptable. The reason provided by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, however, is very peculiar: to avoid a parallel black market. Huh? What about giving the people who pay your salary a decent Internet connection? Instead, they come up with defensive reasons like a black market. Sure, that might be a problem, but not for the customers: they don’t care how they get decent Internet access.

Just how “decent” would the official DSL be, anyway? Well, the article provides some numbers. For comparison’s sake, I’ve listed the expected Lebanese prices with market prices in The Netherlands, the country with the highest penetration rate of DSL right after South Korea.

Table 1: Comparison Speed /Price Lebanon – The Netherlands

Download Speed



128 kb/s

22 USD

Free, with fixed phone line

256 kb/s

35 USD

Not Available

512 kb/s

45 USD

Not Available

1,024 kb/s

80 USD

Not Available

1,500 kb/s

Not Available

13 USD

3,000 kb/s

Not Available

40 USD

6,000 kb/s

Not Available

52 USD

8,000 kb/s

Not Available

78 USD

20,000 kb/s

Not Available

78 USD

All prices per month, Dutch prices from XS4ALL, which is part of market leader KPN.

*: Restricted up/download to roughly 1 GB a month, setup fee of 37 USD

** Unlimited up/download, free installation

For almost the same price of 80 USD, Internet access in Holland is a shocking 20 times faster than in Lebanon. Ouch! Thank God the Lebanese are so much richer than the Dutch! Also, it's quite interesting to notice that the Lebanese speeds are not even available in Holland because customers found them too slow...

Another thing. The article states that Lebanon has upgraded its bandwidth to the rest of the Internet to 1 gigabit. That sounds like a lot, but it is actually an awfully small amount: only 8,000 customers who take the cheapest subscription can be served! If customers take the more expensive packages, this number drops even more.


Gerard said...

I guess this blog is not the place to get to much technical, but last time I was in Lebanon I reached speeds of 8 Mb/s through a simple phone line. The trick is to only import the data that you are really watching and to have a provider outside of Lebanon. But watching Youtube is still out of the question. Besides, a 128 kb/s internet connection is available in Holland as a FREE addition to a fixed phone connection called "Slim bellen" (smart calling).

Riemer Brouwer said...

Thanks for the info, I have updated the table.

I've never heard of your solution, unless you talk about satellite downloading? If not, it must be expensive to call international while downloading, right?

Gerard said...

No, it is not by satellite (but by a secure shell connection to a server abroad; not all providers offer this possibility). So there is only the local costs for internet access in Lebanon and the subscriptioncosts for an account abroad (may be low speed; in my case about 3$/month). It is purely text-based, so no pictures or movies. I came to this solution because the Lebanese provider blocked access to my Dutch webmail (I don't know why).

Dan said...

Not to dwell on the issue, but you cannot compare DSL in Lebanon to the Netherland or anywhere else in the developed world where DSL and cable are the norms and well entrenched. Not to mention that comparing a country in wars and turmoils since the mid 70s is not very realistic.
DSL speeds of 256, 512 and 1M are coming sooner than you think(2-3 weeks max) and once the technology matures, speeds can go up. After all, you dont jump in to an F1 car straight out of a street sedan... you cart first then F3 etc... same thing :p
Now, for Gerard who created some confusion... he is talking about something like ONSPEED which is not high speed, but a low res picture of the web page sent to your PC by a foreign ISP who has high speed connections. If you dont get it, it is like dial-up on steroids :)

Gerard said...

Thanks for the calrification, Dan. ONSPEED is indeed similar to and I guess even better than my solution. Of course it is not what one really wants. But if for some reason you cannot get what you want, it is second best to optimize what you can get.

Gerard said...

cLArification (My keyboard doesn't wnat to listen to me.)