After months of delays, Lebanon’s telecoms minister, Nicolas Sehnawi, has confirmed that international internet capacity via the India-Middle East-Western Europe (IMEWE) submarine cable is now available to ISPs. Habib Torbey, the head of the Lebanese Telecom Association and president of GlobalCom Data Services, representing the country’s private ISPs, confirmed to local newspaper The Daily Star yesterday that the long-awaited new capacity was now available, adding that the development ‘will really change the internet landscape in Lebanon.’
A statement from the communications ministry added that Sehnawi would present a draft bill to the Cabinet in the coming three weeks that would formally dictate a reduction of internet access prices in the country. Lebanon’s landing station for the IMEWE fibre-optic system had been scheduled to enter operation in December 2010 but was postponed mainly due to disputes involving the cable’s owning consortium, the telecoms ministry and the national incumbent telco OGERO. With the international undersea connection now lit, ISPs will soon be able to offer retail and wholesale users faster speeds, whilst planned 3G mobile data services will also utilise the IMEWE cable.
ISPs are waiting for the promised data pricing bill with interest as, unlike government-owned cellcos Alfa and MTC Touch, ISPs currently pay around USD3,000 for a line which reportedly costs the government USD100 to supply, Torbey stated. Meanwhile, upgrades to another cable system, Cadmos, will also boost the country’s available bandwidth, helping to raise speeds and lower prices.