Slow internet driving foreign companies away from Lebanon

Slow internet driving foreign companies away from Lebanon
By Dana Halawi, Daily Star
BEIRUT: Many foreign investors are reluctant to establish businesses in Lebanon due to low speed of broadband connectivity which affects their production capacity, the president of professional computer association Gabriel Deek said. “Slow broadband connectivity in Lebanon is behind the success of Dubai in attracting business opportunities that should have come to Lebanon instead,” Deek told The Daily Star.
“We have very slow and expensive broadband connections in Lebanon. Huge companies such as Microsoft need high speed connections for them to be able to connect to their international networks, which costs no less than $50,000 per month in Lebanon,” Deek said.
Gabriel Deek is a member of the Lebanese Broadband Stakeholders Group (LBSG) which is an informal organization that includes representatives from different economic entities in Lebanon. The group is behind a campaign that is being launched in the media aimed at creating awareness among people on the importance of high-speed broadband connectivity in the country.
“Isn’t it a shame to waste the chance of establishing new businesses in the country, which could have created a lot of job opportunities by only a few simple measures that could be taken by the government?” he asked.
He added that the maximum speed of broadband in Lebanon is 2 megabits for a monthly subscription of $199 while in France the rate for the 100 megabits speed is 100 euros or $141.
Deek said telecom law number 431, created by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) in 1996 and published in 2002, should be implemented in order to liberalize the telecom sector and create competition, which will in turn decrease the prices of these services.
The telecom law regulates the telecommunications services sector in Lebanon and includes the rules for its transfer, or the transfer of its administration, in full or in part, to the private sector, including the rule of the state in the telecommunications sector.
Deek said the law creates competition where companies other than Ogero enters the market and provide these services which will decrease prices and increase the number of users.
“Internet penetration in Lebanon is around 30 percent currently but if prices go down as a result of new companies coming into play, this number will increase to 70 percent if not more, which will yield more profit,” said Deek. “It is in the interest of the government to set up regulations and sell licenses for the private sector to invest and provide these services at lower prices.”
“The government is responsible for the quality of broadband services offered to consumers, and this could be caused by a lack of knowledge or other hidden interests which we don’t know about,” he added.
He criticized Ogero for not supplying ordinary consumers with fiber optics formulas which is restricted for usage in solidere buildings until now. “They don’t do it for customers. Honestly, nobody is satisfied with Ogero,” he said.
He believes that using fiber optics all over Lebanon would increase prices of land, buildings and offices. “This will positively affect the real-estate sector in Lebanon as well as most of the other sectors,” he added.
Board member and head of TRA’s Information and Consumer Affairs Unit, Mahassen Ajam, said the TRA is preparing for an international auction aimed at providing big carriers with licenses, which will encourage competition and decrease connectivity prices in Lebanon. “We are in the process of preparing for the auction but it still needs some more time. Our aim is to give licenses to two companies other than Ogero,” she said.