01 March 1996

DAMASCUS has succeeded, in a brief period of time, in emerging from the dark ages of telephony. A Kuwaiti-financed programme of expansion and upgrading carried out by Siemens of Germany is nearing completion.

The result is a much-improved service, with more than double the number of lines. Syria now has over 2 million lines, serving a population of about 16 million, a teledensity that compares favourably with most Middle East states with populations of more than 1 million.

A cable link to Cyprus has been in operation since the end of 1994, improving international services, and Alcatel of France is laying a cable linking Tartous, on Syria's Mediterranean coast, to Alexandria.

The next project on the horizon is a GSM system. Syria Telecommunications Establishment (STE) chairman Makram Obeid says this will go to international tender soon. He says he expects initial demand to be for 100,000 lines, and that the service should be operating by the end of 1996. It is expected to be operated by STE.

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