According to the Speedtest Global Index, which ranks countries according to their internet speeds monthly, Lebanon currently ranks at 161 out of 177 countries in terms of broadband connection speed.
One of the contributing factors for this is the absence of fiber-optic services for the local consumer.
The global average download rate, as per the same index, is 73.58 Mbps as of February 2020. For Lebanon, the average download speed is an embarrassing 8.10 Mbps… And this speed is not even easy to maintain.
Keep in mind, however, that we’re talking about fixed broadband networks here (classical home network), not mobile internet (3G and 4G), which is generally much faster.
As for the reasons behind this incompetence, they’re complicated and many. If only Lebanon could switch from the traditional cable internet to the faster, more secure, more reliable, and more advanced fiber-optic technology, the 161 would become at least 61.
This dream was very achievable and good progress has, in fact, been made over the past year and a half or so by Ogero to achieve it.
In mid-2018, the fixed infrastructure operator in Lebanon launched its 40-month plan to give Lebanese households and offices access to ultra-fast internet connections through fiber-optic networks.
As reported by Al-Akhbar, around 35% of the project had already been finished by the end of 2019. At that rate, Lebanese homes will have been equipped with fast internet by 2022; just 2 years from now!
Sadly, however – and expectedly, I might add – many obstacles arose in the face of the dream.
Today, the USD-LBP currency exchange rate has exceeded more than 40% of the rate specified by Lebanon’s central bank. That is the most difficult obstacle standing between the Lebanese citizen and 50+ Mbps download speeds.
This exchange rate is hindering the project’s progress because, as everyone in Lebanon knows nowadays, American currency is practically nonexistent in the country.
The lack of this currency coupled with extremely high prices in the parallel market of the Lebanese Pounds (due to the aforementioned exchange rate dilemma) is a painful blow to the import budget; no more import.
And no more import, naturally, translates to no more fiber-optic equipment to work with. Although this is perhaps the biggest of the hurdles in the face of Ogero’s progress, it is certainly not the sole one.
The private sector with all its nepotism and political influence also has its interests in the fiber-optic domain.
And the powerful people in that sector, as Al-Akhbar noted, have done their part in hindering the pursuit.
Cutting 25 Billion Lebanese Pounds from the project’s hefty-but-not-enough budget also caused a decline in the progress.
Instead of spending the 2019-allotted 75 billion in the past year, Ogero was left with exactly 0 LBP to spend on the project that year due to the budget cut.
The 75 billion Lebanese Pounds were instead distributed over the coming years to compensate for the withdrawn 25 billion.
Despite all this, Ogero has not halted working on the fiber-optic project. Right now, the company is utilizing the equipment that it had imported before the economic crisis and the disappearance of the dollar from the local market.
The work will halt in the near future, though. The moment the present equipment is consumed and the need for more arises, whatever progress made then will be frozen until Lebanon is saved from its current economic situation.