Lebanon will complete linking telecom switchboards to a fiber-optics network in April 2013, paving the way for the launch of the fourth generation of mobile networks in major cities, the telecommunications minister said over the weekend.“Switchboards across the country will be linked through a comprehensive fiber optics network … The Lebanese would feel a qualitative shift in [Internet connections] speed,” Nicolas Sehnaoui said at the opening ceremony for a newly completed fiber optic network operations center.
The NOC is a part of a project conducted by Swedish telecommunications equipment maker Ericsson, which last year won a $6.3 million first phase bid to set up Lebanon’s Optical Transport Network.
Sehnaoui said the completion of the fiber optic network would allow Internet connection speeds to soar, adding that up to 10 times higher connection speeds would be initially made available in April to the two mobile operators, hospitals and educational facilities.
At a later stage, Sehnaoui said, households would be granted access to the network after a tender for building a fiber-to-the-home network is awarded later this year.
Last Thursday, mobile operator Alfa said it had successfully completed a lab test on the 4G-LTE technology.
During the test, speeds reaching 100 megabits per second were achieved, Alfa said in a press release. Competitor Touch is also expected to conduct a similar experiment later this week.
Asked by Twitter users if the launch of 4G would result in a deterioration in mobile connection quality, which was the case following the launch of third-generation services, Sehnaoui dismissed such a scenario.
“Getting questions if 4G will create a rough transition period like the 3G did. The answer is no. 4G is only data so far, while 3G was voice too,” he tweeted Saturday.
Live experiments for the 4G network will take place on Nov. 16 at the recently launched ICT hub, Beirut Digital District. During the event, the Telecoms Ministry will report on the development of the sector between June 2011 and June 2012.
In August 2011, the Lebanese government launched a plan to overhaul the country’s Internet connection, promising an 80 percent decrease in prices and a four- to eight-time increase in speeds.
But many customers complain that improvements fell short of promises. Experts have blamed the lack of fiber optic infrastructure for the government’s failure to drastically improve connection speeds.