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With a clear vision to "Connect the Nation", Ogero has made great strides this year thanks to the efforts deployed to improve Lebanon's infrastructure and enable growth in the country. Speaking to Telecom Review, Imad Kreidieh, director general and chairman of Ogero, declared that the Lebanese people will feel the immediate impact of the improvements undertaken by Ogero to put in a place a solid fiber infrastructure, which will pave the way towards FTTC and FTTH deployment.

What can you tell us about Ogero's participation in this year's Mobile World Congress?
This year, Ogero will be presenting Lebanon as a country engaged in digital transformation from an infrastructure perspective, enabling Lebanese companies to communicate to the world their capabilities. The Lebanese pavilion in the Mobile World Congress 2018 will allow startups that have been winning awards and presenting applications or programs of international standards to showcase their innovative products and solutions.

Lately, Ogero has been deploying tireless efforts to reinforce the FTTC network in Lebanon. Can you tell us more about it? And where are you now in the process?
The process is now complete from the legal and financial perspectives; we received the approval of the Council of Ministers and the Parliament regarding the financing of the FTTx project that will cover all the Lebanese territory and a tender document has been prepared and was rendered public in late November 2017.

The deadline for potential suppliers to present their bids was on January 15th, 2018. After evaluating the tenders and choosing the winning suppliers, we will give them one month to mobilize their resources in order to kick-start the project by end of March 2018.

The Lebanese people will witness a massive deployment of the cabinets throughout the project's implementation phases.

In your opinion, when will Lebanon boast a complete FTTH network?
Achieving a complete FTTH network implies the deployment of fiber into every single home or building which is not realistic at this stage. For this reason, we called the project "FTTx" because it combines fiber-to-the-cabinet, fiber-to-the-office and fiber-to-the-home.

We hope that this project will be completed in about 30 months from now with the aim of guaranteeing to every internet user a minimum speed of 50 mbps.

FTTH is a long-term project that will evolve depending on the country's demographics and demand while justifying a specific return on investment. FTTH will be very dynamic and its deployment will depend on the country and market's requirements.

What were the main challenges that you faced in 2017? How did you manage to overcome them?
The main challenge that we had to overcome was the maintenance of our existing infrastructure because it was based on copper and neglected for the past 13 years. We had to deal with the complaints of the people for either not having fixed line connectivity or a very bad internet connection due to the lack of maintenance of the copper.

Furthermore, we faced the challenge of the engineering and design in our endeavors to upgrade the capabilities of the company to provide better products and services to the people. Fortunately, we were able to address both challenges at the same time; our maintenance teams started to work across all the country and we are doing around 500 interventions every day in order to install new lines or repair the connection.

In parallel, the engineering team managed to identify all the upgrades required for the core network to support the increase in the demand for capacity. We implemented seven projects related to the core network and the different layers of transport. We are almost done with those upgrades which will allow us to engage with the new project that will add additional pressure. Because delivering very high speed internet packages will mean that demand on data packages and international capacity will grow.

By mid-2018, we should be able to handle the surge of demand on data. People will start feeling a real difference across all the country.

What are your plans for the upcoming year?
Engaging in a project such as the FTTx requires lots of resources and attention because Ogero's credibility is at stake here, and the engagement of the Ministry of Telecommunications of Lebanon will be paramount. In 2018, we will work on those projects that we initiated in 2017.

In addition to the FTTx, we will launch Ogero's public WiFi at Rafic Hariri International Airport of Beirut first, and then we will tap other public areas in selected cities all over the country.

Ultimately, we finished the tender document for the datacenter and national cloud that we will complete during 2018, and by the end of the year, we will be ready to launch a tender to establish the datacenter and national cloud to be used by governmental agencies and the private sector.