There are many positive developments occurring in Lebanon which see this countries telecoms sector finally making strident improvements. While it has been known to have slow and expensive Internet access as well as costly and patchy mobile services; the situation is slowly changing with Internet speeds now increasing, mobile call costs coming down and capped data plans being introduced.
Lebanon's government is supportive of further developing its telecoms infrastructure in order to be well positioned for future digital advancements. In addition, Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb has ambitions to finally liberalise Lebanon's telecoms market - a topic which has been under discussion since at least 2002 when Law 431 was first mooted. Market liberalisation and privatisation is a contentious issue in Lebanon as revenue from the telecoms industry contributes a significant proportion of the government's budget.
Broadband affordability improved significantly in August 2011 when a decree was passed that drastically reduced prices and increased speeds. Broadband availability is improving, with access available via DSL, fibre, WiMAX, WiFi, iBurst and 3G/LTE platforms.
Mobile services are offered by the two government-owned operators, managed by Orascom Telecom of Egypt operating as Alfa and Zain of Kuwait known as Touch - in return for a management fee. Not long after launching 3G services, both operators launched LTE services, underpinning a drive into mobile broadband and presenting a strong alternative to existing fixed offerings. Alfa and Touch both plan to deploy Voice-Over-LTE (VoLTE) services in 2014.
The Minister is also keen to finally reduce telecoms tariffs in Lebanon. Telecommunication prices are set by the Ministry of Telecommunications (MoT). Previous governments followed a strategy of limiting subscriber numbers and keeping tariffs high, resulting in the highest prices in the Middle East and the lowest penetration rates.
In 2014 the Telecommunications Minister decreased the cost of incumbent Ogero's local and international calls by as much as 50% for fixed calls and 30% for mobile calls when made using pre-paid cards. This initiative was also designed to rejuvenate the prepaid sector.
These recent developments indicate the Lebanese telecoms market is again heading in the right direction and in 2014 the market is evolving, mostnotably in the broadband and mobile sectors.
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