BEIRUT - State-owned internet company Ogero awarded a massive $283 million fiber-optic project to three companies Tuesday. SERTA Channels-Huawei, BMB-Calix and PowerTech-Nokia will build the rest of Lebanon’s fiber-optic network, connecting the already-complete fiber backbone to streets and homes throughout much of the country.
Once completed in 2020, the network promises to bring speeds of at least 50 megabits per second to the vast majority of Lebanese internet users – more than 10 times faster than many connections today.
The winning local companies, SERTA Channels, BMB and PowerTech, are paired with major international firms Huawei, Calix and Nokia, respectively, as equipment vendors. How the work will be divided among the three winners has yet to be decided.
Ogero head Imad Kreidieh told The Daily Star that a strategy would be developed within a month, and that work may be divided based on geography or technology. Contracts should be signed in two to three weeks, and Kreidieh plans to launch implementation by May 1.
Kreidieh said five companies had purchased access to the tender documents and four had submitted bids. One was disqualified because it did not have a local presence. The remaining three were rated equal on technical capacity.
Kreidieh said that because the project is so massive, a decision was made to bring all three companies on board – contingent on BMB-Calix and PowerTech-Nokia matching SERTA Channels-Huawei’s bid, which was the lowest. The companies agreed, he told The Daily Star.
Walid Khoury, the managing director of SERTA Channels, told The Daily Star the company was happy with the result. “It’s our pleasure” to be selected for this project, he said.
He declined to further comment pending finalization of the contracts.
The Daily Star was unable to reach representatives of BMB.
A PowerTech employee declined to comment.
SERTA Channels is a subsidiary of RGH Holding, owned by Hisham Itani, according to its commercial registration. PowerTech is majority-owned by Ahmad Haddad. BMB is majority-owned by the children of Michel Doumit. Huawei, Nokia and Calix are Chinese, Finnish and American companies, respectively.
Speaking at a ceremony announcing the winning bids Tuesday, Kreidieh said the project is expected to make $1 billion in income for the government. The promise of fast internet “is not a dream anymore,” he said.
At the same event, Prime Minister Saad Hariri described the project as one of his government’s most important achievements to date. “We, as a government, decided to carry out special achievements,” he said.
“We are very late in entering the FTTX phase, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do this. This is very important for Lebanon,” he said.
Hariri admitted that the project took some time to advance, “but we decided to go forward and not listen to those who want to hamper the work of the government.”
“There is a citizen who has needs. It is my job to fulfill these needs.”
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