There’s a lot talk about 4G coverage being available in Lebanon beginning this April. That would be wonderful, but it is worth noting that 4G coverage for consumers will not be available until late 2013–at least that’s what the head of Alfa Telecom, Marwan Hayek, told me on the sidelines of the 4G launch event last November.
Initially 4G will be available in Beirut, but only in limited parts of the city–excluding much of Ras Beirut– as shown in the map above, which Alfa displayed during the event. There were no maps for other cities (see inset), but judging by past experience, the rollout will take some time. After all, 3G has been available for over a year but it’s still difficult to get a connection in parts of Beirut and the surrounding suburbs, let alone in provincial areas.
Anyone who has used 3G in Lebanon knows that the signal fluctuates on a daily, sometimes hourly basis from “E” or 2G to “3G” at the top corner of your screen. This seems to be due to blind spots in the network known as dead zones. When asked to provide a map of dead zones, Alfa staff acknowledged that a number of these existed but that maps could not be made public. I also put the question of dead zones to the Minister’s advisor during one of our meetings. “There must be a problem with your settings,” he told me. “I can make Skype calls while driving from Batroun to Beirut (a distance of 50KM) without a single interruption.”
That’s strange because I would say my VOIP call success rate is around 50 percent, and most calls barely last a few minutes and that’s while standing still. Most people I know have a similar experience.