Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb has unveiled a five-year plan to revamp Lebanon’s telecoms infrastructure, assuring that Internet users across the country would enjoy fiber-optic connectivity by the year 2020.
“Fiber optic networks will be installed in Lebanon progressively over five years and the country will be totally connected through this technology by the year 2020,” Harb said during a ceremony held at the Grand Serail and attended by Prime Minister Tammam Salam, ministers, ambassadors, and representatives of the private sector and the media.
Harb said the ministry would also roll out 4G services to cover the whole country in two years, in preparation for the launching of the 5G connection by the year 2020.
The minister said that only 16% of Lebanon is currently covered by a 4G connection, while most of the country is still working on 2G and 3G, adding that the cost of implementing this new five-year plan was not too high compared to the losses incurred by Lebanon in the absence of such an important technology.
“The project will cost over $600 million but it will be fully covered by the budget of the Telecommunications Ministry and this project will attract foreign investments to Lebanon while providing new job opportunities. This is why we are urging CSOs (civil society organisations), local institutions, municipalities and the media to play a role in spreading this culture and informing people about the benefits of such a plan,” Harb said.
Harb slashed the prices of communication and Internet services within weeks of replacing former Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui, reducing tariffs on local and international calls and cellular fees.
The new changes resulted in an increase in the number of landline subscribers by 120,000 over a year and a half, while the number of digital line (DSL) subscribers went up by 100,000 for the same period of time, according to Harb.
These changes led to an increase in Internet penetration from 70% in 2013 to 86% in 2015,”
Among the major changes implemented by Harb in the past few months is the creation of technical workshops for connecting fiber optics to more than 40 new centers in rural areas. A fiber-optic network already exists in Lebanon but for the time being it only connects centres together.
Head of state-owned telecoms operator Ogero, Abdel Moneim Youssef, said that Lebanon has used 15,Gb in 2007 compared to 45m Gb in 2010, 155m Gb and 310m Gb in 2014.
“We still have hopes to seize the opportunity in five years to promote and enhance our connectivity as fast as possible in order not to be taken back by the great wave of data,” he concluded.