Lebanon News

Despite missed targets, Ogero says fiber rollout on track

Ogero. (The Daily Star/Ogero,HO)

BEIRUT: Despite initial delays in implementation, internet users should expect no more major delays in the rollout of Lebanon’s fiber-optic network, Ogero head Imad Kreidieh said Thursday.

Recent delays in the implementation of a national fiber-optic plan for the last quarter of 2018 won’t push back the overall schedule - “it will affect only what will be implemented in quarter one of 2019,” Kreidieh told The Daily Star during a live-streamed Facebook Q&A.

“We may even see some implementation ahead of time,” he said.

In November 2017, Kreidieh stood at a conference at the Beirut airport and proclaimed a shocking goal. “By the end of 2018, this is our objective: to have 85 percent of internet users in Lebanon enjoy ... [at least] 50 megabits per second.”

But a year later, Lebanon’s broadband download speeds average just 6.5 Mbps, according to the Speedtest Global Index from Ookla, an internet research firm.

The global average is 52 Mbps.

This past August, Kreidieh launched a fiber road map, giving tentative deployment times for over 280 towns and neighborhoods throughout the country ranging from Q4 2018-Q2 2021.

Last month, the deployment for 56 of these locations was delayed by at least one quarter. For three areas - Qobeiyat, Mukhtara and Dora - deployment was moved earlier.

Of the 13 locations originally scheduled to be connected in Q4 2018, all but two were delayed.

But Kreidieh assured viewers of the Q&A Thursday that these areas would see fiber connectivity by the end of the year or early in 2019.

He said Deir al-Qamar would be the first of the Q4 batch to be connected - before the end of the 2018 - giving subscribers a speed of at least 50 Mbps.

This will be swiftly followed by the rest of the original Q4 2018 areas before the end of February, Kreidieh said.

“We apologize for the delays that have taken place, but be sure that we are working hard and fulfilling our duties,” he added.

When people pointed out the delays on Twitter in November, Kreidieh responded, “Guys, we started - bear with us please,” explaining that “some exchanges can be more complex than others.”

The national fiber-optic plan is a $300 million project that’s seen both bureaucratic and technical delays.

After being held up in the tender process, in February 2018 three firms won contracts to build the nationwide network connecting schools, businesses and residential areas to the country’s fiber-optic backbone.

SERTA Channels would build the network in Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, Jbeil, Kesrouan, Metn and south Lebanon; BMB Group in Aley, Chouf and Nabatieh; and PowerTech in north Lebanon.

While fiber optics is the crown jewel of Kreidieh’s plans to modernize Lebanon’s telecommunications infrastructure, other projects have also faced delays since he took command of Ogero in January 2017.

Some projects, however, have been finished ahead of time.

This summer, Lebanon was declared IPv6-enabling, beating Kreidieh’s initial goal of implementing the next generation of internet addresses by half a year.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 21, 2018, on page 3.

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