BEIRUT — Caretaker Telecoms Minister Johnny Corm on Tuesday defended the new tariffs for fixed telephone and internet services provided by state supplier Ogero, which still need to be approved by the government.
"We sought to adjust the prices based on our costs, and the new tariffs will be 25 percent to 27 percent lower than what they were before the crisis," Corm said at a press conference in Beirut, referring to the value in dollars of the previous tariffs when the exchange rate was LL1,500 to the dollar.
Citing Ogero statistics, Corm said that 60 percent of the supplier's 280,000 subscribers signed up for basic packages of 80 GB and 100 GB, whose prices would increase from LL60,000 and LL90,000 per month (less than a dollar at the current market rate) to LL420,000 and LL630,000 (less than $7) under the new pricing.
The more expensive packages (2 TB and 1.5 TB) are priced between LL5 million and LL6.2 million. "According to Ogero's figures, there are only 12 subscribers who have opted for these packages," Corm said.
He added that mobile phone tariffs, which have been fluctuating since July 1, 2022 based on Banque du Liban's Sayrafa exchange rate, would not be modified.
He also clarified that the issue of neighborhood distributors, who resell connection time in dollars to residents in certain regions, should be addressed separately, adding that a mechanism had been adopted in July 2022 by Executive in Decree No. 9458. This text allows the ministry to sign contracts with illegal distributors and regularize their procedures.
The caretaker minister strongly recommended approving the tariff increase to enable Ogero to cope with its costs.
He also advised the cabinet against the option of subsidizing telecoms tariffs.
The draft decree to change the Ogero tariffs has been approved by the State Council and now awaits cabinet approval. The decree essentially proposes multiplying all existing tariffs by seven.
Previously, the tariffs were multiplied by a factor of 2.43 on July 1, 2022. While still listed in Lebanese lira, Corm said the prices remain significantly lower than their pre-crisis levels when the former exchange rate of LL1507.5 per dollar was in place.
To put it into perspective, since late 2019, this exchange rate has multiplied by a factor of more than 60. The tariffs of mobile operators almost automatically fluctuate based on exchange rate variations since they are denominated in dollars and converted to lira at the Sayrafa platform rate, which generally closely aligns with the market rate.