Archive | Telecom

Lebanon To Introduce Biometric Verification for SIM Cards?

Registration of SIM cards and mobile handsets is nothing new in Lebanon as you are currently required to present your ID card and have a photo of you taken on the spot when buying a new SIM, and handsets registration was introduced back in 2013 before getting canceled a year later.

However, it seems like the ministry of telecom is looking to up their standards of verifying SIM cards by planning to soon introduce biometric information which I find to be quite weird. I mean I totally understand using biometric checks for ID card or passports, but why would you want to do the same for something that is “mobile” in nature and can easily transferred from one person to another? The only logical explanation is that someone is simply arranging yet another corrupt deal. We’re nearing the end of year and they probably need to have their budget fixed… but then again, who are we to doubt their intentions! ūüėÄ

Anyway, what concerns me the most is why should we be forced to provide these critical information to two private companies who’s networks have been infiltrated by Israel a few years ago? (Anyone recalls the cases of Charbel Qazzi and Tarek Rabaa?) Such information about us should only be possessed by the government. And whoever thinks such measure will easily help identify suspect terrorists in the country is probably missing the fact that there a million other way to communicate securely other than using a SIM card…

In all cases, you can check this report by LBCI about the matter. If this thing gets into effect, you will be given a deadline to register your SIM at authorized centers, otherwise your phone line will be deactivated.

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Beit Misk – The First Smart City in Lebanon with Fiber To The Home Infrastructure

Beit Misk was pronounced over the last weekend as the first “Smart City” in Lebanon after Ogero enabled internet connectivity over fiber optics to the residents there.

Earlier this month Ogero announced it will be¬†offering residential fiber connection to the people of Hamra and Achrafieh but it came as a no surprise to have the Beit Misk residents getting it ahead of everybody else since the project developers took a fiber infrastructure into consideration during construtions, which eventually made Ogero’s job easier to provide this service there.

Speed tests conducted by Chairman Imad Kreidieh during the launching event in the presence of minister Jamal Jarraj reached ~900Mbps which is quite impressive, and I believe it would be great if households there got >50Mbps connections.

Still, the ultimate challenge is of course to provide the same service to Beirut and the other major cities in Lebanon, and I really hope to see some tangible results in the near future.

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Mandatory IMEI Registration is Coming Back – Mobile Phones to Get More Expensive

I was at a mobile phone shop in Beirut yesterday when I heard some people claiming that the Ministry of Telecommunications is bringing back the mandatory registrations of mobile phones IMEI in a new attempt to fight smuggling of mobile devices. (*ahem* Amhaz…)

As soon as I came back home I searched a bit and found that the thing is unfortunately real as per the below report by MTV (thanks Techie Dad), and it is quite surprising that the ministry didn’t bother alert the subscribers yet about the new decision!

For those who don’t know, a similar decision was taken in 2013 by the telecommunications minister back then Nicolas Sehnaoui and was cancelled by Boutros Harb in 2014 due to how complicated the registration process was. However, unlike now, the ministry back then launched an awareness campaign to let people re-activate their old handsets in order to keep them from being banned on the network once the registration process is put into work.

The MTV report mentions the risks of duplicate IMEIs but the ultimate purpose for enforcing IMEI registration will definitely be fighting smuggling of mobile phones, all at the expense of making our lives harder with the registration process and of course increasing the mobile phone prices (since they will all be subject to import tax and VAT), instead of tightening the controls at the customs.

It isn’t clear yet though when this thing will be put into effect but this guy on Facebook claims it will be as of September 15th. Still, let’s cross our fingers and hope the ministry thinks it over!

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Ogero is Now Offering Residential Fiber Connection in Hamra and Achrafieh

You’re so lucky if you live in Achrafieh or Hamra because Ogero announced two days ago that they started offering fiber connections there, and you can apply to the service by sending an email to thepeople@ogero.gov.lb.

I don’t imagine the procedure to be very straight forward because it certainly involves changing the wiring and Ogero didn’t provide any further explanation about that yet.

Anyway, while this is a big step forward for the residents in these two areas, you can’t but think about the big gap being created among the users of the same phone network, and you can clearly see it in the comments on Ogero’s page. Some can’t benefit from more than 1 or 2Mb connections and others can’t even have DSL installed at their premises, while others on the other hand are benefiting from open speed plans and now fiber connections…

And let’s not forget also the problems that need miracles to be fixed such as mine which has been trailing with IDM and Ogero for more than 5 months now. At some point I’m starting to think it will only be solved once I move to Beirut!

The solution for all of this is certainly an infrastructure overhaul, but given how slow our governments tend to be with fulfilling promises, I really hope we get to see this during our lifetime.

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So Did Your DSL Speed Improve?

It’s been three days now since the new plans recently announced by Ogero became effective, and with them came the “open speed” packages which allow subscriber to benefit from the maximum speed their phone lines can handle.

All other ISPs have updated their existing plans well, and the most flexible ones are offered by IDM and Cyberia. Others like Sodetel and Wise have less options, but no matter what provider you are subscribed too you can get a decent plan for ~$20.

I ¬†have tested the speed upgrades at a friend in Achrafieh who is now getting ~3.5Mbps instead of the 2Mbps he was originally subcribed too, and at my parents in Kaskas area who are now getting ~6Mbps (The latter spoiled my kid by the way because YouTube videos were loading pretty fast on is iPad! ūüėõ ). On the other hand, people who live relatively far from the exchange offices will be limited to 1 or 2Mbps.

I personally was quite excited when the plans were originally announced in May, but unfortunately shortly after that I started experiencing disconnection with my home connection that lasted several hours everyday, and extremely low speeds whenever I get lucky and my modem connects. So I followed up with IDM (my ISP) and Ogero to troubleshoot the problem for over a couple of months until I was recently informed by Ogero that the problem is due to a defected cable in my area which cannot be replaced anytime soon, and that I have to deal with my current connection until further notice.

This is quite frustrating to be honest since the monthly subscription we pay for our landlines is at minimum supposed to cover the technical failure that might occur on the network, and that should of course include main cables feeding a whole area…!

Anyway, until a miracle restores my connection, I am currently considering switching to a wireless solution such as Connect which recently updated their plans with higher data caps.

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Touch is Into The Money Lending Business Now?

To all those who run out of credit before their line cycle is over, Touch recently added a new service to its prepaid Magic lines called “Advance Credit” allowing their subscribers to get an advance credit amount once their balance falls below $1, and it of course gets paid back once they recharge their line.

It sounds all nice until you know the rate at which the advance amount should be paid… A screenshot on Facebook shows that for a $3 in advance, $4.2 get deducted once the subscriber has enough credit again. That’s a whopping 40% in interest and it sounds more like usury to me…

Even banks are not that rude with their offerings… With such rate this must be Touch’s most profitable service right now! But then again, no matter how awful you think their tactic is, you wouldn’t expect less from a company operating in a monopolized industry.

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Ogero New DSL Prices Finally Approved

Remember the new DSL prices that were proposed by Ogero earlier in May? They were finally approved by the cabinet yesterday with a slight modification and should be effective in a couple of weeks once the decree is published in the Official Gazette.

As I mentioned before, people who will benefit the most are those who live near any of Ogero’s exchange offices since their phone lines can handle better speeds. Others will unfortunately have to wait up to two year until the phone network is upgraded.

As for the minority who is blessed with connectivity using fiber optic cables, the below rates apply.

The above prices are of course only applicable to Ogero subscribers, so we should soon expect other ISPs to announce new competitive packages.

Finally, with respect to mobile data bundles, telecom minister Jarrah also announced that E1 prices will be reduced as well which only makes it logical for 3G and 4G data plan prices to decrease as well, so let’s cross our fingers!

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New OGERO DSL Prices Announced by General Director Imad Kreidieh

Imad Kreidieh, the general director of OGERO, announced on his twitter account last night the new DSL prices that should soon be offered to the public once approved by the cabinet and they are as follows:

  • 2Mbps / Ulimited – 60,000L.L
  • 4Mbps / 40GB – 24,000L.L
  • Open speed / 50GB – 30,000L.L
  • Open speed / 100GB – 45,000L.L
  • Open speed / 150GB – 60,000L.L
  • HDSL / 100GB – 100,000L.L
  • Open speed / 200GB – 75,000L.L

Note that open speed means as much as your phone line can handle. And according to the tests OGERO is currently conducting the speeds are reaching up to 10 and 12Mbps for people that are close to the exchange offices. As for free night quota, Kreidieh claimed it will not be available at this stage.

Needless to say, any price reduction to the DSL service is good to us, and I believe these new prices are quite fair. What I also wish is to have the process of switching from one ISP to another made easier since it takes up to two months right now.

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OGERO #UnleashTheSpeed – Test Results in Achrafieh

Today marked the third day in Ogero’s “Unleash the speed” tests for subscribers in Beirut, and among the exchange offices that were included today is the Achrafieh exchange office, so I passed by one of my friends there in the area to test the “unleashed” bandwidth myself!

I eventually used speedtest.net and picked a server in Lyon that I usually use to test my home connection. I performed numerous tests¬†and was impressed by the download speed which was consistent at ~6.5Mbps (3 times the subscription original speed), however the ping latency varied from 90 milliseconds as shown above up to 300 milliseconds, it’s worth noting though that ping to local servers at Cyberia and Connect was consistently less than 50 milliseconds.

Assuming the subscription fees will remain unchanged or hopefully decrease, the speed upgrades are much welcome but the latency thing should definitely be reduced to provide a better experience for online gamers. Aside from that, the ultimate challenge for Ogero will of course be to cope with the increasing demand on bandwidth once they remove the speed caps for all subscribers. People are currently barely getting the speeds they are subscribed to, so increasing line speeds without having the necessary bandwidth to cater for the users is going to be pretty disappointing.

Anyway, I don’t want to be pessimistic about the upgrade plan, but let’s just keep our fingers crossed until it is all done.

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The New Connect Ads Are Spot On

It’s almost the end of the month, and as per Ogero’s new Director General Imad Kreidieh our internet speeds are supposed to double or triple by tomorrow! However, unless he is a magician, I really don’t see how the speeds are going to increase with the current rotting telephone network… I have mentioned it several times before, as long as copper wires are still used to connect households to central offices I really can’t see the connection quality getting better.

I personally have been feeling very frustrated with my DSL connection for quite some time now due to speed and latency degradation in the evening. In fact, I can rarely enjoy online gaming anytime before 10 or 11PM… which recently got me thinking of switching to some wireless internet provider. Using 3G or 4G would definitely be the optimal solution but the bundles are quite expensive for home usage and lack of free night traffic is a deal breaker.

Aside from their witty ads, I have been hearing some positive feedback about Connect and I’m considering checking if they can allow me to test their connection where I live before committing to one of their plan, and I will definitely subscribe in case their service was stable throughout the day.

Another possible solution could be to talk to your neighborhood’s “hayda taba3 l cable” who basically provides you with internet by installing a wireless atenna/access-point on your building’s roof. Even though no one really knows where they get their capacities from, they surprisingly provide good speed an latency. A guy I know in Dekwaneh for example gets <100ms latency to google.com which is pretty decent in Lebanon. The drawback however is that the service gets totally fucked during winter time…

Anyway, I will let you know how it goes with me!

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