On September 20th the pilot or testing phase for 3G connection in Lebanon started. The testers will have the opportunity to use the 3G connection on their phones for a period of one month meaning till October 20th which is the date set to make 3G connection available to public. I am one of those testers and I realized that a lot of Lebanese had many questions concerning this topic that’s why I decided to create this post in which I will answer most of the questions.
Those questions are based on what people asked me when they knew I was a 3G tester but I also encourage anyone having a question to post it as a comment and I will keep on updating this post with the new questions.
I should note that a part of being a tester I attended the 3G pilot phase launching conference at ESIB and that I also watched the Kalam el Nas episode dated September 29th, 2011 which main topic was connectivity in Lebanon and with the minister of telecommunications Mr. Nicolas Sehnaoui as guest.
UPDATE: The 3G service is now available for Alfa and MTC Touch users. (Oct. 26th, 2011)
The two Lebanese phone operators, in collaboration with the Ministry of Telecom, decided to have a total of 4,250 testers of which 250 will be chosen on purpose because they are people in the media industry or some other industries that require a high usage of internet on the mobile phone and the remaining 4,000 will be chosen randomly. From those 4,000 persons 1,000 are aged between 18 and 24 which, according to the minister of telecom, are the main target of all the activities concerning connectivity (Phone, Internet etc…).
2- Do you always have 3G coverage across Lebanon ?
No. Actually the 3G connection is only available in Beirut, Zahle, Tripoli and Saida. According to official sources, the 3G coverage will be available everywhere in
Lebanon starting February 2012 and let’s hope they will be able to meet this deadline. I should note that even in Beirut the 3G access is not always stable: Sometimes my phone go back to the EDGE connection.
I don’t know what are the exact geographical limits when they talk about coverage of Beirut but it seems like limits are not the same for Alfa and MTC Touch.
UPDATE: According to readers comments, Alfa ensure a 3G coverage in the Mount Lebanon region till the coast of Amchit. (October 2nd, 2011)
According to speed tests I did directly on my phone, to speed tests done by other 3G testers and who shared them on the web and to speed tests done by MTC Touch and Alfa representatives in front of the “Kalam el Nas” camera: The AVERAGE speed is 1.5Mbps. Sometimes it increases or decreases depending of the number of phones connected to the network, the distance for the antennas emitting the signal or the fact that you are indoor (decrease) or outdoor (increase).
4- To have access to the 3G connection, do I have to change my phone ? my Sim card ?
As long as your phone is 3G compatible you do not need to change your phone and of course most of the phones released in the past few years are 3G compatible.
Concerning the Sim card: If you are a MTC Touch user you do not need to change your Sim card, the 3G subscription will be automatically upgraded on your Sim card. However, if you are an Alfa user you will have to get a new Sim card.
5- If I am a blackberry user will I be able to cancel my Blackberry service subscription and just have the 3G subscription ?
If you want to keep on using Blackberry Messenger (BBM) and the e-mail service you will have to get both the Blackberry and the 3G subscription. If you just want to have the normal internet access you can cancel your Blackberry Enterprise service. Note that the price of the blackberry subscription decreased by 32.5% it is now 27$ per month and the data limit doubled.
6- What will be the price of the 3G service subscription ?
The price for the 3G service has not been announced yet, it will be announced on the 20th of October 2011 (date of the official launching of 3G).
7- Is it true that the 3G connection decrease your battery life ?
Yes it is true. For example my Blackberry phone that used to last an average of 2 days without charging now barely last for a full day.
8- Is it true that the official release date of 3G in Lebanon, set to be October 20th, has been postponed due to legal problems ?
There are indeed legal problems between Cedarcom and the Ministry of Telecom (MoT): Cedarcom, a private internet service provider known for supporting the privatization of the telecommunication sector, says that MTC Touch and Alfa don’t have the required license to provide a 3G connection. However, an official decision of postponing the release of the 3G service has never been released.
According to Cedarcom the privatization of the sector will lead to higher internet speed and higher data capacity for lower prices due to competitiveness between private internet service providers.
If you have other questions concerning 3G in Lebanon please feel free to post them as comments on this blog post