Tighter regulations expected to help fulfil DSL speed boost

14 Aug 2014

Lebanese telecoms minister Boutros Harb has promised to complete the previously mandated increase in DSL internet access speeds for all users across the country ‘in a couple of months’, assisted by the implementation of newly drafted regulations. Harb told local newspaper The Daily Star that following a government decree in June to double the entry-level DSL connection speed to 2Mbps ‘from the start of July’, many subscribers are still waiting for the free speed boost due to delays in the allocation of additional capacity for internet service providers (ISPs) by incumbent state-owned PSTN operator Ogero. A simultaneous promise to multiply the entry-level monthly data volume cap by ten-times to 40GB at no additional cost has been implemented nationally already, the minister clarified, while adding that Ogero would be gradually allocating more capacity to ISPs in the coming few months.

Confirming this state of affairs, ISPs have been requesting additional capacity from Ogero to boost the internet speed for existing DSL customers as per the ministry’s advertised data plans, but Ogero has largely yet to approve their requests, according to Khaldoun Farhat, CEO of one ISP, Terranet. According to Minister Harb, Ogero has been reluctant in the past to allocate additional capacity for ISPs due to a lack of regulations and weak monitoring of the use of capacity for illegal services, exacerbated by a previous breakdown in relations between the telco’s management, the telecoms ministry and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (currently operating in a largely advisory role) caused by political bickering, but he claimed that this situation is improving under the current government. The minister also told the Star that further regulations are being drafted to crack down on unlicensed ISPs as well as illegal international call providers which cost the treasury millions of dollars in lost revenues annually.

Imad Tarabay, CEO of ISP Cedarcom quoted by the Star, said the ministry raised false expectations among Lebanese internet users when it advertised the newly approved data plans but failed to provide a specific timetable to implement the service capabilities. Furthermore, via the newly mandated data plans, existing 20GB-per-month DSL package subscribers were upgraded to an unlimited data usage plan, which according to Khaldoun Farhat has resulted in deterioration in the quality and speed of DSL services across Lebanon. The Terranet CEO stated: ‘Individual users have been spending more time online as a result of the implementation of unlimited quota plans, but the infrastructure has not been upgraded to handle this increased usage.’

Some internet users, including those connecting via a data service provider (DSP) such as Cable One, a partner of Terranet, have already received upgraded DSL speeds, Farhat continued, as Cable One installs its own equipment at service points that connect around 40% of Terranet/Cable One subscribers. However, this adds to the cost of services as DSPs such as Cable One lease the additional required capacity from private satellite providers at a rate two-to-three times more than the cost of leasing capacity from Ogero, according to Farhat.