February 20, 2018

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Ogero head stakes reputation on 50 Mbps internet by 2018

Ogero Director Imad Kreidieh laid out a jaw-dropping timeline for improvements to Lebanon’s internet Saturday, all but promising speeds in excess of 50 Mbps by the end of next year – more than 10 times faster than many connections today. Proclaiming, “It is time to stop promising; it’s time to deliver,” Kreidieh outlined the state internet provider’s ambitious plan to finally put Lebanon on par with the rest of the world – or even beat it.

“By the end of 2018, this is our objective: to have 85 percent of internet users in Lebanon enjoy ... [at least] 50 Mbps,” Kreidieh told the CIO Lebanon Association’s annual conference, held at Beirut Airport.

“The international benchmark is 35 Mbps.” Fifty Mbps would put Lebanon roughly on par with the U.K. and Germany, according to the latest Speedtest Global Index from Ookla, an internet research firm.

Much of the immediate improvement is slated to come from a maintenance program for Ogero’s infrastructure and a revamp of the company’s core network, Kreidieh said. The two projects, now 25 and 35 percent complete respectively, are both set to be completed by mid-2018.

“By the end of Q2 2018, we will have a completely new core network,” the telecoms boss boasted, adding that he hoped this would make Lebanon’s network the fastest in the world. Kreidieh later clarified in a tweet that while Lebanon could have the fastest network in the world, that wouldn’t mean it had the fastest internet speeds in the world. “Some people are saying that I promised the fastest internet in the world in Q2 2018! Please note that I said we will have the fastest network in Q2 2018, which is not the same thing,” the tweet said.

Nine other projects, from replacing old voice telephone equipment to rolling out data centers, have also been initiated.

A final project to introduce public Wi-Fi is slated to start in the second quarter of next year.

“This project will start at the [Beirut] Rafik Hariri International Airport. We’ve got approval from all the ministries. We are going to have the fastest internet of any international airport in the world – it will reach 200 Mbps,” he said.

The most hotly anticipated project – fiber – won’t be finished until the third quarter of 2019. While Ogero is currently deploying FTTX pilot programs in Ashrafieh and Hamra, Kreidieh said, “We are bound by the financing approved by the government.”

The 2017 state budget appropriated LL150 billion ($100 million) to upgrade the country’s communications network. It envisioned another LL150 billion in capital investment in 2018, LL75 billion in 2019 and another LL75 billion in 2020.

While Lebanese have seen past promises of lightning-fast internet come and go, Kreidieh has proved himself before. In April, Ogero conducted a series of tests to “unleash the speed,” resulting in user-reported speeds cracking double digits – sometimes more than 20 Mbps.

The results shocked everyone, and boosted Kreidieh’s public standing just months after taking over from his enormously unpopular predecessor, Abdel-Moneim Youssef.

That reputation is now on the line. Kreidieh has given himself 13 months to bring Lebanon up to speed.

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