Beyond the call

Lebanon's telecoms network has seen great change in recent years as it experiences the benefits of modernisation following the traumas of war. Ronan Shields speaks to Rula Abu Daher, the chief technical officer of the second of Lebanon's two mobile operators, MTC Touch, about delivering service even in some of the darkest periods of the country's history.

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By  Ronan Shields Published  April 1, 2007

As one of the two mobile licensees in the Lebanese telecoms market, MTC Touch, a wholly owned subsidiary of the MTC Group, has built a body of expertise in maintaining the day-to-day management of network operations in conflict stricken areas.

The operator successfully bid for a four-year contract granted by the Lebanese Ministry of Telecommunications in November 2004 to manage part of the country's telecoms infrastructure on a ‘build-operate-transfer' basis, claiming the networks lacked proper maintenance in the four years prior to MTC Touch's involvement. MTC Touch took over management of the GSM network from LibanCell, which was backed by influential members of Lebanon's political establishment and is now a part of the Comium Group.

MTC Touch chief technical officer Rula Abu Daher has held the position since June 2005 and leads and manages the operator's technical department, a position from which she oversees the operations, maintenance and planning of the expansion of the GSM network. Daher is also charged with exploring and preparing the company's infrastructure to accommodate new technologies and services. "Our initial activities, back in late 2004 and early 2005, centred around securing an adequate budget to profile the market needs, formulate an execution strategy and to finally implement the programme through the Ministry of Communications," recalls Daher.

"As you can imagine this required the purchasing, installation and maintenance of a lot of equipment in order for us operate a network capable of handling the increase in end-user demand. Our primary target has been to establish and maintain a network infrastructure that will adequately service the needs of the market," she adds.

Daher also explains that in addition, the operator also had to look at the requirements of integrating new data and networking platforms into the system and MTC Touch's operations became so successful that by mid-2006 the cellco was able to provide end-users with new data services such as MTC Touch roaming and Blackberry.

MTC Touch counted 560,000 subscribers at the end of 2006, representing a market share of approximately 50%. Growth in subscriber numbers at the operator during the course of 2006 represented a rate of 10%. Mobile penetration in Lebanon stood at just under 30% at the end of 2006.

Not many female chief technical officers exist at telecoms operators in the region - or across the globe for that matter - and Daher relishes the challenges the position presents her. "During the aggression on Lebanon in July last year, Daher guided her team and demonstrated leadership under crisis," comments MTC Touch general manager. Mohammad Shabib.

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