Lebanon becomes a hub for ICT entrepreneurship
Lebanon is home to a growing technology sector, complete with local start-up incubators designed to provide seed funding and mentoring to technology entrepreneurs. To address the infrastructure issue, a number of start- up hosting locations have emerged with the support of the government, in recognition of the importance of nurturing a local digital economy to contribute to overall economic development.
Building on this environment, in late 2014 the World Bank announced it would launch its Mobile Internet Ecosystem project (MIEP) in the country. Lebanon was chosen by the World Bank because it has a highly educated population who can speak a number of languages; is home to a number of well regarded universities for the region and has an economy which uses multiple currencies. The World Bank project will see Lebanon become an incubator for international mobile applications.
Mobile services in Lebanon are provided by Alfa and MTC Touch over the government owned networks. Both operators launched 3G/HSPA services in October 2011, followed by 4G LTE networks more recently however 4G is yet been deployed nationwide.
Lebanon was an early investor in fibre-optic technology with an extensive fibre network already laid throughout the country. However it is not currently commercially available for reasons unclear - and it lies idle with reports claiming there is work still to be completed on the network before it can become operational.
Increased Internet speeds and improved broadband capacity has fuelled growth for Lebanon's ICT sector. The government has made concerted efforts to introduce lower prices and offer higher speeds for broadband as well as reduce fixed and mobile telephone tariffs; however both broadband and mobile pricing is still considered high when compared to the rest of the MENA region.
Liberalisation stalled in Lebanon some years ago, despite the previous development of plans by the TRA. The current Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb has made it clear however that he would like to revive the plan which includes the development of Liban Telecom to replace Ogero Telecom.
Despite the positive movements towards making telecoms services more affordable, improving infrastructure and the revival of liberalisation discussions - some inhibitors to Lebanon's telecommunications growth include the continual electricity outages, difficult mountain terrains, lack of liberalisation, civil instability due to the Syrian conflict and cyber-security threats.
Key telecom parameters 2012; 2015
Sector | 2012 | 2015
Subscribers to telecoms services (million):
Fixed Broadband | 0.45 | 0.54
Fixed-line telephony | 0.91 | 0.91
Mobile phone | 4.00 | 4.20
Lebanon's telecoms market holds a unique position in the Middle East given the high level of government involvement.
Privatisation has been delayed as the telecoms sector is a significant generator of government revenue, restricting the market from reaching its potential.
In 2014 the ISP's completed infrastructure and technical upgrades that were necessary to improve speed in order to meet the requirements of new data plans introduced by the telecommunications minister.
The start-up scene in Lebanon is gathering pace quickly with a number of venture capital firms and companies taking an interest.
The banking sector has been identified as the most mature B2C and B2B e-commerce application in Lebanon.
In 2015 the domestic TV broadcasters joined together to request cable TV companies pay a carriage fee for distributing their content.
4G LTE networks have both been launched by Alfa and MTC Touch, however the service is not yet available nationwide.
Alfa and Touch are both exploring VoLTE services with Alfa conducting live testing of the service in 2014.
Companies covered in this report include:
Ogero Telecom, Cable One (Wigo Lebanon), Cedarcom, GlobalCom Data Services (GDS), Pesco Telecom, Sodetel, IDM/Cyberia, TerraNet, MTC Touch, Alfa Telecom, Cinemoz, Leap Ventures, MarkaVIP, Telly, ICFlix Media.
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