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Solidere inks deal to make all of BCD an Internet 'hot zone'
Real estate firm will spend $5-$7 million to wire capital

Daily Star
Wednesday, May 24, 2006

BEIRUT: Solidere, the real-estate company largely credited with jumpstarting the Lebanese economy, will now give the countries' fledgling Internet technology sector a boost by offering wireless Web access throughout Beirut Central District by the end of 2006. Mounir Douaidy, the General Manager of Solidere, said on Tuesday that the project will help Beirut reclaim its role as a regional business hub, since the availability of "Internet and multimedia services has become the decisive factor in choosing any business or residential destination."

"The Beirut Central District Broadband Network (BCD-BBN) will result in the upgrading of Beirut's telecommunication potential, giving rise to added business activities and creating new jobs (in the process)," Douaidy told reporters at a press conference at Solidere headquarters.

Solidere has signed a buy-operate-transfer (BOT) agreement with France Telecom subsidiary Equant to deliver multimedia services via the Solidere Operation Center.

Equipment from Cisco Systems will support a fiber-optic broadband network, bringing wireless Internet access to all public spaces downtown and giving commercial and residential occupants the option of subscribing to video-on-demand, video conferencing and closed-circuit television services.

BCD-BBN will initially cost Solidere between $5 million and $7 million. Fadi Moubarak, Cisco's sales manager for the Levant region, declined to offer an estimate of subscription rates.

"They (rates) have not been decided yet, but will be competitive," he told The Daily Star.

"It really differs from country to country and depends on which services are chosen."

Solidere's announcement coincides with an economic juncture in Lebanon. While both the public and private sectors continue their campaigns to attract foreign investment, the government has stalled the full-scale privatization of certain state-owned companies.

In April the Cabinet approved a 50 percent decrease in the tariff for Internet service providers to connect to the state-owned international Internet cable, paving the way for foreign Internet service providers to install and manage DSL operations in Lebanon. But despite earlier commitments, the Telecommunications Ministry was slow to increase the capacity of the international Internet connection to meet the projected demand.

A ministry statement Tuesday indicated that telecom deregulation was finally back on track, however. Telecommunication Minister Marwan Hamade announced that he will ask the Cabinet to green-light plans to upgrade the existing IT infrastructure to accommodate DSL and improve Internet service.

The ministry hopes to complete by September an agreement with the British company Marcioni to increase the capacity of the international cable more than threefold, to 10 gigabytes per second from the current 3 gigabytes.

Lebanon's cable capacity currently is one of the lowest in the region, trailing Saudi Arabia and Jordan (15 gigabytes) and Egypt (4 gigabytes).

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More on the BCD internet "hot zone":

SOLIDERE launches a state-of-the-art FIBER OPTIC BROADBAND NETWORK in the Beirut City Center

As part of its endeavors to develop the Finest City Center in the Middle East and reclaim the role of Beirut as the regional Business Hub, Solidere is continuously deploying all efforts to develop strategies and introduce new added-value services with a view to render the Beirut Central District a unique mixed-use environment and a choice business destination.

SOLIDERE, the Lebanese Company for the Development and Reconstruction of Beirut Central District s.a.l, has signed an agreement with EQUANT, an industry leader in global communication services and a subsidiary of France Telecom, for the provisioning of a state-of-the-art IP-based Metropolitan Area Broadband Network for the Beirut City Center.

Equant’s model for emerging and incumbent carriers will provide Solidere with a private MPLS-based IP network, in partnership with market leaders Cisco System,which supports video-on-demand, videoconferencing, closed circuit television, gaming services, IP-based television services and a scalable internet gateway for internet access. Equant will be responsible for the deployment of the network in coordination with Solidere for the integration of the services and their final delivery to the end user via Solidere’s Operation Center. Equant’s consultants and strategic technology partner, Cisco Systems, worked closely with Solidere to design a flexible long-term solution, based on a Fiber Optic backbone to the user with the most advanced telecommunication equipment.

Introducing Advanced Fiber Optic Broadband Technologies into the Beirut City Center will propel Solidere in the prestigious membership of the Broadband Intelligent Community, where advanced Internet and multimedia services have become decisive factors in the choice of any business or residential destination.

Solidere’s Broadband Network is a pioneer telecommunication project in Lebanon and the Region located in the heart of the Beirut City Center, a highly dense area that will be able to answer the needs of all categories of users. It is a demand driven, scalable, resilient network that will provide a wide range of services to residential, retail, business, corporate, public sector and tourist community. These services include but are not limited to:
• High Speed Internet Access
• IP Virtual Private Network for Corporate Clients
• Data Center Services
• IPTV Broadcast Services
• On line Gaming
• Security Surveillance through CCTV systems
• Wireless Access in Public Areas
• Interactive Video Conferencing
• World Class Support Customer Contact Center.

The Beirut Central District Broadband Network (BCD-BBN) is currently in the deployment phase with services expected to be available starting end of 2006.

It’s forthcoming implementation will result in the up-grading of Beirut’s telecommunication potential, will project Beirut into the 21st century high-tech arena and will transform it’s City Center into a 24 hour living IT Zone, giving rise to added business activities, creating new jobs and positioning the Beirut City Center as the most prestigious, vibrant and advanced mixed-use regional real estate development.
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