Lebanon sets stage for broadband

Lebanon's Ministry of Telecommunications (MoT) is preparing to launch a tender for the installation of a nationwide, IP-based public data network (PDN). The move forms the first step towards the probable rollout of ADSL services by the country's privatised, fixed operator next year.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  November 3, 2003

Lebanon's Ministry of Telecommunications (MoT) is preparing to launch a tender for the installation of a nationwide, IP-based public data network (PDN). The move forms the first step towards the probable rollout of ADSL services by the country's privatised, fixed operator next year.

Costing an estimated US$20million, the PDN will provide capacity to internet service providers (ISPs) on a wholesale basis and be implemented alongside nodes to allow a greater amount of bandwidth to become available in the country.

It will also be run from a state-of-the-art management centre and make use of existing dark fibre in order to cut down on the cost of its implementation.

"[The PDN will] offer the best future-proof options available today over shared network resources," says Nabil Haddad, head of telecoms at Dar Al-Handasah Consultants (Shair & Partners), the multi-disciplinary consulting and engineering firm that advised the MoT on the project.

Proposals prepared for the MoT by Dar Al-Handasah suggest that multi-service infrastructure be deployed in the PDN to allow future services to be run over a single network.

Also likely to be integrated is multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) to distinguish between traffic types and prioritise delivery methods.

Packet over SDH (POS) has been recommended as the basis of the network's topology, while IP, rather than ATM architecture, has been suggested, although suppliers entering the tender will be able to propose other options.

"IP provides more scaleable networks that are cost effective. Moreover, the proposed core network will run IP/MPLS to compensate for shortcomings [and] the [tender] permits bidders to submit alternative options," says Haddad.

To predict the capacity needed for the launch of new services such as 3G and video streaming in the future, analysis was conducted by Dar-Al-Handasah into the likely traffic levels that will arise when the PDN has been operational for three years.

Accordingly, international bandwidth will be provided to the network at two different locations, each supplying 155Mbits/s.

"The network will be engineered in such a way that its capacity will exceed the projected bandwidth at any point," says Haddad.

"There will be ample spare capacity to enable new services to be carried over it in the future and to lease bandwidth to licensed operators," he adds.

Different scenarios have also been accounted for in the project's business plan, taking into account the difficulty of predicting how Lebanon's economy and competition in its telecoms sector will progress.

"Scenarios were also developed for financial analysis to test the robustness of the proposed data network project to different economic projections and the entry of competition," Haddad explains.

Provisionally, the availability of voice-over-IP (VoIP) services is planned, as well as transport and wholesale internet access.

Dial-up internet access will also be supplied to service providers via remote access ports (RAS), while asymmetric and symmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL and SDSL) services will be supplied through digitial subscriber line multiplexors (DSLAMs).

"Around 9,600 RAS ports, 19,600 ADSL ports and 1,960 G.SHDSL ports have been accounted for in the design," Haddad explains.

"[Other] services to be offered include transport services to large bandwidth users and licensed operators, and internet access for other service providers and businesses. There will also be virtual private networks (VPNs) to provide leased line type services more cheaply and effectively over a contended shared network," he adds.

While the MoT shut down several illegal broadband wireless providers in Lebanon recently, the network is expected to allow legitimate services to be introduced when the country's fixed provider, Ogero, is privatised and renamed as Liban Telecom next year. "[Fixed wireless] will be [offered] under the jurisdiction of Liban Telecom," says Haddad.

Once it is launched, the PDN is expected be run as a wholesale operation, giving service providers control over retail-related issues such as marketing, sales, billing and customer service.

It is expected to be operational at the earliest in Q3, 2004, when a limited number of DSL services will also become available in Lebanon.

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