History of the Web in Lebanon
Added 30 March 2012
In September 1991, the “PC Support Unit” of the American University of Beirut (AUB) made a study of possibilities of connecting to the Internet, because of the alarming gap in the field of national and regional communication, and the need for the university of connecting to the network despite the global financial and technical handicaps resulting from the poor condition of the Lebanese telecommunications infrastructure at the time.
On October 26 is launched the connection of AUB’s global network but it’s on December 23, 1993 that Lebanon took part of the global Internet community. Meanwhile, the team working on the project had to overcome many obstacles both technical and administrative, including the creation of the field “.lb” and the installation of DNS servers.
In 1994, the team decided to implement an ambitious new project, that of creating in Lebanon a national network of universities and research under the name “Lebanese Academic and Research Network” (LARN). This project involves any academic or research institution in Lebanon, which must apply for membership and fulfill all the basic requirements, namely communications, computer equipment and staff training. LARN member institutions are part of the sub domain “edu.lb”. Initially less than ten, the number of members increased considerably and the number of members exceeded seventy in April 2000.
One year after the AUB connection, the vendor Data Management provided individuals and Lebanese companies access to the Internet, initially of low flow, followed quickly by another connection of 64 kbps satellite, allowing significantly the flow’s increase.
Other ISP followed by offering competitive services and lowering prices: IDM (1995), Sodetel (1996), Terranet (1999), Lynx (1999)….
In December 1996, the number of registered sites under the domain of Lebanon did not exceed one hundred. Two years later, they exceeded three thousand, and in 2001, they were nearly four thousand in spite of the conditions for registering a domain in Lebanon. In addition to their increase in number, content and diversity of these sites are also changing. In fact, in 1996, most web pages were advertising purposes, with three ministries (Ministries of Environment and Tourism, and the office of Minister of State for Administrative Reform). Today, all departments have websites and some even possess several. All economic sectors are represented on the canvas: banks, e-commerce, online bookstores, humanitarian organizations, professional associations, supermarkets online …
Lebanon is connected to the world through four telecommunications intermediaries: two fiber optic cables Maritime (Cadmus and Aletar-Berytar) and two stations connected by satellite (VSAT) to Juret el-Ballut and Aarbaniye.
Cadmus was opened in 1995 with a lifespan of 25 years. It connects Beirut to Pentaskhinos on the island of Cyprus (230 km). It is owned by Lebanon (38%), Cyprus, Syria and other countries (62%). All connections with international Internet nodes (gateways) pass through this cable.
Aletar-Berytar is a network linking Beirut to Tartus and Alexandria. Opened in 1997, it has a lifespan of 25 years. It consists of two tranches: Aletar (Alexandria-Tartus, 787 km) which is owned by Egypt, Syria (46.875% each) and Lebanon (6.25%), and Berytar (Beirut-Tartus 134 km) which is owned by Lebanon, Syria (46.875% each) and Egypt (6.25%). Lebanon does not have international circuits on this cable: only the portion Berytar is used as a backup circuit for communications between Lebanon and Syria.
There is no independent infrastructure specifically in charge of the Internet in Lebanon. Therefore, the network relies on conventional telecommunications infrastructure. However, this infrastructure which was recently upgraded, does not meet the needs and expectations of Internet users in Lebanon.
The fixed network telecommunications in Lebanon is currently over one million lines, serving approximately 600,000 subscribers. It’s the operator Ogero that manages these lines. Today, ISDN lines are offered by different Ogero and Internet companies. This technology allows having a fully digital connection.
There is no local hub for the Internet in Lebanon, so each Internet service provider (ISP) must find its own solution to provide a connection to the global network. This can be done through either an international leased line to the Lebanese Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) or a VSAT connection to the “download”.
However, a recommendation is issued by the Interministerial Committee for Information Technology to create a regional Internet hub in Lebanon.
Lebanon has fifteen major ISP, and a number of secondary ISP ensuring their connections through the major ISP. Their connection to the global network is ensured by international operators of Internet in France, Cyprus, Britain, Italy, the United States or Canada.
Patterns of connections between ISP and their users may vary. In general, we resort to dial-up connection over a telephone line, the most recent connection being the coaxial cable via a diffuser connected to a local ISP leased line. However, the cable connection is officially banned by the MPT but is tolerated in practice. Often companies use microwave transmission to obtain a broadband connection.
Several conditions must be met to become an ISP in Lebanon:
• It is first necessary to have an authorization from the MPT
• A certificate of registration in the commercial register in Lebanon
• A proxy for the person authorized to sign on behalf of the company
• An address in Lebanon and abroad for the connection to the Internet
• The signing of an agreement with the MPT for the payment of invoices and commitment not to use the connection to the Internet for other purposes (telephone and video conferencing over the Internet are prohibited in Lebanon)
• A bank guarantee for an amount equivalent to rent two of the connection to the Internet
The subscription cost for an unlimited connection dropped to $ 10 per month, falling due to strong competition between different providers. We are witnessing the consolidation and takeovers (Cyberia acquired Intracom …).
ISP are not only commercial, there are other organizations like the AUB and USJ that provide access to students, faculty and staff. They are therefore regarded as private ISP.
The team in the computing center of the AUB manages the field lb. Although registration is free, the cost of the field amounts to about one thousand dollars because of the necessary documents to complete the registration. Each domain name is unique, the name must necessarily be written in Latin characters. In addition, several conditions must be met regarding the nature of the registered domain (school or university, business,)
During the past decade, Internet use has become very important, especially in banking. In addition, the network is undergoing a large scale development of information (newspapers and magazines online). Moreover, the ability to connect to the Internet through the mobile phone (3G or Wi-Fi) significantly increased the rate of users in Lebanon.