BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Internet service providers will have successfully completed the necessary upgrades to their infrastructure by the end of June, enabling them to boost the speed and quota for their existing customers as per the new data plans set by the Telecoms Ministry.
Effective July 1, the entry level DSL plan, still priced at $16, will be upgraded to 2 Mbps with a 40 gigabyte cap, compared with the previous 1 Mbps and 4 gigabytes of data. For $50, subscribers will get the 2 Mbps with an unlimited download plan compared to a previous cap of 20 gigabytes.
The 4 Mbps plan will see its price drop to $33, from $50, and have its usage increased to 50 gigabytes, from 25 gigabytes. The 6-8 Mbps plan will now cost $43 and include 60 gigabytes of data. The charge for exceeding the data limit on each plan will now be $1.3 per gigabyte, down from the current $4.
“By June 20, ISPs will have completed all the necessary technical upgrades to upgrade the data plans of all their subscribers as per the Telecom Ministry’s decision,” said Maroun Chammas, chairman and general manager of IDM, a leading ISP in Lebanon.
Chammas told The Daily Star that ISPs were in the final phase of upgrading their switch nodes, routers and servers along with other related technical improvements to their infrastructure to secure the required increase in connection speed.
However, for Internet subscribers to actually enjoy the promised improvement in connection, the country’s telecom regulatory authority Ogero will also have to complete its own upgrade of switch nodes at service points.
“The Telecoms Ministry informed us that it sent a request to Ogero asking it to carry out the necessary upgrades before July 1 and we hope that all steps will be completed on time,” Chammas said.
Besides managing the necessary upgrades at services points, Ogero needs to increase the capacity for ISPs, Chammas said.
A telecom expert who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Daily Star that Ogero could increase the capacity for ISPs without buying additional capacity on two submarine telecommunication cables, IMEWE (India-Middle East-Western Europe) and ALEXANDROS (Cyprus, Egypt and France).
The failure to improve the Internet infrastructure and secure better speeds for subscribers under the new data plans would deal a big blow to ISPs in Lebanon, Chammas warned.
“ISPs are counting on growth in the number of subscribers to offset losses due to lower monthly rates being offered to customers under the new data plans.
“A failure to secure better speeds would thwart new subscribers and result in losses for ISPs,” he said.
Additional improvements to Lebanon’s Internet infrastructure might be required in the future if connection speeds are to increase above 8 Mbps, another telecom expert who also spoke on condition of anonymity told The Daily Star.
The source, who works for a multinational telecom firm with offices in Beirut, said the current link between households and service points which is made of copper can handle speeds of up to 8 Mbps, which under current data plans is sufficient.
However, any increase above that speed would require the completion of the fiber-to-the-x (FTTX) project, including fiber to the home and fiber to the office components.
Chammas said that so far only a few big firms, universities and hospitals were linked to the Internet through a fiber optic network. “We hope to live up to the expectations and provide customers with value added services.”
Average Internet speed in Lebanon currently stands at 2.5 Mbps, according to the international Household Download Index by U.S. broadband tester Ookla, which ranks the country 174th internationally.