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

Daher's efforts were recognised last month in Dubai at the Middle East Businesswomen and Leaders Achievement Awards, where she was named ‘Middle East Woman of the Year' within the ICT sector.

Lebanon's socio-political environment heightens the challenges faced by any commercial entity in the country, and given the strategic significance of communications networks; Daher's responsibilities in maintaining coverage are further amplified. "The 2006 war, which was entirely unexpected, dealt a major blow to our efforts in the market," she states. "Some of MTC Touch's facilities were specifically targeted during bombing raids on Lebanon and the effect of this was at one stage 25% of our network capabilities were incapacitated during the height of the conflict."

The resulting communication difficulties hit the bulk of Lebanon's key industries, and Daher describes MTC Touch's endeavours during this time as being motivated as much by the national need as they were by commercial interests. "We were acutely aware that one phone call could potentially save a life," she muses.

"As a team leader I did not insist that staff come in over this period as I did not want to unnecessarily compromise the safety of my team but most of them responded positively," Daher retorts.

The extent of the damage stretched the length and breadth of Lebanon with many major MTC Touch hub sites being directly targeted and at one stage "literally hundreds" of sites were down simultaneously across the north and south of the country.

MTC Touch's first priority was to formulate a strategy for the emergency response team to implement on-the-spot reparatory work in affected areas, a process that involved a dynamic approach. And the challenges facing the company have not relented since the end of the conflict as the ongoing security situation and civil tensions create difficulties in operating in Lebanon.

"In the long term operating in the Lebanese market requires a versatile approach as it is often governed by the security situation," suggests Daher. "This approach involves cooperation with our competitor to circumvent the operational difficulties dictated by the ongoing security situation."

The Lebanese telecoms market, however, continues to attract regional and international investment interest.

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