Four rea­sons Le­banon’s in­ter­net is so slow

Broad­band in Le­banon faces lay­ers of ob­sta­cles

Executive Magazine - - Economics & Policy -

Though Le­banon has a high in­ter­na­tional ca­pac­ity com­ing in through un­der­wa­ter fiber op­tic ca­bles — to the likes of sev­eral hun­dreds of megabits per sec­ond (Mbit/s) — in­ter­net speeds at the ac­tual level of the user are over­whelm­ingly low. In Beirut, they av­er­age about 3.2 Mbit/s ac­cord­ing to the Ookla Net In­dex for house­hold down­loads, cal­cu­lated over a 30 day pe­riod end­ing March 18. This is not con­sid­ered broad­band by mod­ern def­i­ni­tions, and pales in com­par­i­son to the global av­er­age of 22.3 Mbit/s, cal­cu­lated over the same time frame.

But the prob­lem is man­i­fold: get­ting broad­band in­ter­net in the coun­try faces lay­ers of ob­sta­cles. Here are four of the main rea­sons why in­ter­net speeds in Le­banon are suf­fer­ing.

THE BRAND NEW FIBER OP­TIC NET­WORK IS NOT ON

Le­banon’s new­est fiber op­tic net­work, by all ap­pear­ances, is com­pletely switched off. The project was com­mis­sioned in 2011 by then Min­is­ter of Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Ni­co­las Sehnaoui and im­ple­mented by lo­cal civil works com­pany Con­sol­i­dated En­gi­neer­ing and Trad­ing (CET) in part­ner­ship with in­ter­na­tional telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany Al­ca­tel– Lu­cent at a cost of $55 mil­lion.

This net­work con­nects the bulk of the cen­tral of­fices (COs) in the coun­try as well as heavy users such as busi­nesses, uni­ver­si­ties, hos­pi­tals, mo­bile op­er­a­tors and the army, with the new­est gen­er­a­tion of ca­bles. This net­work, how­ever, has not yet been ap­proved for fur­ther devel­op­ment and use by the new ad­min­is­tra­tion un­der Sehnaoui’s suc­ces­sor Boutros Harb — and thus has yet to be switched on. The foggy rea­son given by ad­vi­sors to the min­istry is that there are mis­takes made by con­trac­tors that are still in the process of be­ing cor­rected.

That means we are still re­ly­ing on older in­fra­struc­ture to re­lay data traf­fic be­tween COs and heavy users, which is mostly made out of cop­per, save for a small fiber op­tic loop con­nect­ing five COs in­clud­ing

Le­banon’s ane­m­i­cally slow in­ter­net can­not be con­sid­ered broad­band by any mea­sure

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