For those who don’t know, minister of telecommunications Nicolas Sahnaoui unveiled the 3G packages we’ve all been waiting for today.
The main package will be 500MB for a $19 monthly fee.
A smaller 100 MB package for $10 exists as well for those who don’t need extensive data.
Nothing has been mentioned about more data extensive package or if there will be a package suitable for those who need a laptop 3G connection via a dongle only.
Each extra MB of consumption will be charged at 4 cents/MB.
The service will launch on November 1st in Beirut and Mount Lebanon on both carriers Alfa and MTC and will be available for both prepaid and postpaid lines.
Sahnaoui also announced that 4G will be available in Lebanon starting Summer 2012, allowing speeds up to 100 Mb/s, after the initial phase of the fiber optics infrastructure upheaval ends.
What do I personally think of the proposed plans? The $10 one (if true) doesn’t make sense. I’d rather pay double to get five times the allowed quota. But is 500MB enough with 3G? I hardly think so. It’s very easy to burn through them without knowing due to the great speed the service provides. On the bright side, the cost of an extra MB isn’t that much so it might help a little.
However, does the claim that Lebanon’s 3G is the cheapest in the region hold up? Let’s look at 3G prices in KSA:
1GB for 50 Riyals (20,000L.L. or about $13.5), 5GB for1 100 Riyals (40,000L.L. or $36), Unlimited for 350 Riyals(140,000L.L. or $93)
So we definitely do not have the cheapest 3G in the region.
However how is 3G? I can answer that question.
After testing the service for four weeks, I can attest to its reliability – especially in Beirut – on alfa. I was getting speeds no less than 2 Mbps in Achrafieh and faced next to no data interruptions using my iPhone’s hotspot feature to connect to my laptop. I’ve gotten download speeds nearing 300 KB/s, which is more than what I got using 3G in Spain. For reference, a 350 MB episode of the Vampire Diaries took me about 20 minutes to download, which is almost unheard of in Lebanon.
Cynics have been saying that the 3G speeds the 4000 testers were getting are good just because you only have 4000 testers. However, after speaking to an alfa representative, he confirmed that they were not deploying the whole bandwidth they had for those 4000 testers so it could be that when 3G becomes available for the public, speed degradations will be rare.
3G coverage in Jbeil, however, has been very spotty. I didn’t manage to get 3G almost anywhere I went in the city and the moments I did get 3G, download speed was horrible, knowing that Jbeil was one of the covered cities during the testing period.
Tripoli, which wasn’t on the map my carrier alfa provided me with, had great 3G coverage, with speeds averaging 1.7 Mbps as well.
It is interesting to note, however, that I managed to get up to 5Mbps on 3G in Sodeco area in Achrafieh: