Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lebanon: HSPA+ to be launched by the Alfa Group bringing mobile broadband

[zawya] Alfa CEO and chairman Samer Salameh said Thursday that Lebanon is going to be among the first countries in the world to launch the HSPA plus technology, which offers over 20 megabits per second data speed over cellular. "By the end of this year, we will be launching HSPA plus in Lebanon, which offers data speed of over 20 megabits per second over cellular. It is 20 times faster than anything available now in Lebanon, and even 50 times faster than what is called high speed today," Salameh told The Daily Star. "Austria and Australia are the only countries that have launched this service so far, and Lebanon is going to be the first to launch it in the Middle East."

HSPA plus is an upcoming wireless broadband standard which provides data rates up to 42 and 11 megabits per second in the downlink and uplink respectively with multiple input, multiple output technologies and higher order modulation.

"This technology is used for watching videos and you can actually walk around and see the person you are talking to," said Salameh. "You can even download an entire movie in less than five minutes," he added.

These remarks came during the 11th annual Arabcom summit held at Habtoor Grand Hotel in Beirut. Arabcom is the only summit in the region where ministers, regulators, operators, investors and decision makers meet to discuss the challenges facing the telecommunications sector in the Arab world.

Salameh believes that Lebanon is so far behind in the telecom sector, and the products and services that are offered in Lebanon today used to be offered 10 years ago in the US.

"In a way, this is bad but in many other ways it is good because we now know what works and what doesn't work. Today the technology is stable, we are able to jump ahead and offer in a very short period of time all the products and services that have taken years and years to mature overseas," he said. "The bad news is that we're very far behind but the good news is that we will be able to catch up very soon," he added.

Amer Tabsh, a professional technical adviser, agreed that Lebanon is far behind other countries when it comes to broadband connectivity.

"Broadband policies in Lebanon should be changed and everybody should be able to have access to fast broadband connectivity and the services that come along," he said. "Other countries have a minimum of 1 or 2 megabit connection speed while in Lebanon we're still using the 256 and 512 kilobytes connections, which are no longer available in other countries," he added.

"We're not even using e-government solutions in Lebanon, which provide citizens with services that would facilitate their paperwork with the government and save a lot of time," said Tabsh.

He believes that the telecommunications infrastructure in Lebanon is too small and does not support the huge amount of subscribers. "The telecom infrastructure should be expanded because it is unacceptable to experience a cease in the network's operations when people send a lot of messages on holidays for example," he said. "This does not happen in any other country in the world," he added.

It is also surprising, according to Tabsh, that Lebanon is not using the 3rd generation technology which aims to provide mobile users, wherever they may be, with the same high-speed services offered by broadband. He said that the mobile user can access high-speed Internet, videoconferencing, and basic video/TV services when using 3G technology. "Other countries have started to use the 4th generation technology," he added.

Telecommunications Minister Gibran Bassil signed during the summit contracts with five firms that want to set up international call centers in Lebanon. Among the firms which intend to set up call centers are Carmen Company, Hilmarsen and Speedn.

Lebanon set to launch HSPA plus high-speed Internet

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