The Lebanon - Telecoms, Mobile & Broadband report includes all BuddeComm research data and analysis on this country. Covering trends and developments in telecommunications, mobile, internet, broadband, infrastructure and regulation.
BuddeComm’s annual publication, Lebanon - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband, provides a comprehensive overview of the trends and developments in the telecommunications and digital media markets in Lebanon.
Political turmoil over many years has hindered the development of Lebanon’s telecoms industry. Consequently there has been no liberalisation and penetration rates are lower in all sectors (other than fixed lines) than in comparable countries in the region. Recent governments have seen the need for change but have been unable to carry it out. General elections in June 2009 resulted in a Western-backed coalition winning the most votes and being tasked by the President with forming a new government. A caretaker government took over while protracted negotiations took place on the formation of a more permanent cabinet.
In early 2009 the outgoing government went some way towards releasing the pent-up demand in the mobile market. Lebanon has two government-owned networks, operated by Orascom Telecom of Egypt and Zain of Kuwait in return for a management fee, with all revenue going to the government. All prices are set by the MoT. Previous governments have 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 other than in desperately poor Yemen. Monthly ARPU levels were over US$60. In April 2009 the government took the radical step of lowering tariffs and increasing the maximum number of subscribers for each operator, arguing that total revenue would increase.
Broadband Internet services were very slow in coming to Lebanon and were not introduced until 2007, again leading to much frustration. The long wait for ADSL services, which were ‘imminent’ for over five years, was blamed variously on constraints in the capacity of the international cable, the lack of a functioning TRA to set and enforce prices, the difficulty of enforcing the ban on VoIP once DSL arrived (potentially having a disastrous effect on the state budget), and the protection of wireless broadband providers. The rollout of services was slow during 2008 but subscriber numbers appear to have increased rapidly during the first half of 2009.
A Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has been established in the expectation of further liberalisation. The appropriate law was passed in 2002 and the decrees for its establishment were approved in 2004 but from 2004 to 2007 the TRA board remained unappointed, partly due to political infighting over nominations. However, since beginning work in 2007, the TRA has been energetic and active, in so far as it has been able without new broader Government legislation, and has developed a Regulatory Framework designed to cover the entire spectrum of the telecom market.
Plans have existed for many years for the privatisation of fixed-line incumbent Ogero Telecom, starting with its conversion into a government-owned company Liban Telecom. In addition, privatisation plans for the mobile networks have come and gone since 2000. The most recent plans were put on hold in 2008 with the then upcoming elections and the Global Financial Crisis cited as reasons.