One year ago, I shared a lengthy post on the Telecom Ministry’s 2020 plan and mentioned that fiber optics are expected to be deployed within 5 years while 4G/LTE coverage was expected to all over Lebanon.
Both the Telecom Ministry and Ogero were committed to implementing this plan but the illegal internet case that was raised almost 4 months ago turned things upside down. Three of Ogero’s top officials, including Abdel-Monhem Youssef were indicted over “negligence that led to the squandering of public funds and evading taxes by allowing some people to set up unlicensed internet in the country.”
The illegal internet companies operating had a bandwidth equivalent to 1/3 of the bandwidth set by the Telecom ministry and as soon as they were cut off, DSL speeds which were already average became worse and there were several outages during the first few weeks but then things went back to normal, and by normal I mean relatively decent internet speeds inside Beirut and lousy ones (barely 1.5MB) in most of the areas outside Beirut. I was told that Ogero opened up the bandwidth several times ever since Youssef disappeared and to cover for the illegal networks that were shut down but I can’t confirm that.
So in terms of fiber optics, I highly doubt that it will happen by 2020 but the least that should be done is upgrading internet stations from the current DSL connections to +VDSL.
4G/LTE Coverage all over Lebanon
This part of the MOT 2020 plan is still on track fortunately. 4G+ was announced back in March by Alfa and Touch and the first phase of 4G+ deployment was organized few days ago by both telecom operators in the presence of Telecom Minister Boutros Harb.
During Alfa’s event, they did a stunt with Lebanese champion Abdo Feghali who joined the press conference towards the end and went on a live drifting session to demonstrate Alfa’s 4.5G LTE-A network speed. Check out the last 5 minutes it’s pretty cool.
Launching the Internet support hotline 1516
The Telecom Ministry introduced a new hotline (1516) that consists of a dedicated team (a sort of emergency unit) aimed at helping customers with internet issues. I’ve tried it a couple of times and it’s practically Ogero’s customer helpline and as you probably know by now, my experience so far with their support has been a really disappointing one.
The only reason I trusted this plan might work is that Ogero was committed to it, but I’ve been repeating it for years that having a state-owned (privately-managed) entity controlling the Telecom sector is a recipe for disaster and that’s why we are here now. I had hopes that we’d get this plan implemented and then go back to the political bickering between all parties but the illegal internet scandal was so big Ogero’s head flew for a whole month if not more to Paris, presumably for “medical purposes”.
In regards to the Telecom Ministry, blaming them solely for not knowing about the illegal internet stations and failing to implement the fiber optics is unfair but I believe Minister Harb should have communicated better what’s happening with the online community and responded to major complaints like the cost of additional MB consumption on 3G plans and the lousy DSL connections in remote areas.
All in all, our 3G/4G speeds are good enough but quotas and prices need to be improved while DSL speeds are still lousy and we are in desperate need of an upgrade VERY soon! I’ve said that back in March and repeat it: “we will have over 3 million internet users in Lebanon by 2017, Lebanon has the 4th highest internet penetration in the region and we still cannot get a proper 2MB DSL connection outside Beirut, and sometimes even in Beirut. This is embarrassing and unacceptable.”