Lebanon TRA unveils licensing plans

The country's telecoms regulator claims it will issue licences before the end of the year.

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By  Michele Howe Published  May 28, 2007

Lebanon’s newly formed telecoms regulatory authority (TRA) will issue mobile and international licences before the end of the year, its president said today.

In a presentation at the International Telecoms Summit taking place in Dubai this week, Dr Kamal Shehadi said the TRA plans to start issuing mobile and international licences in the fourth quarter of this year.

Lebanon currently has two mobile service providers, MTC-owned MTC touch and Alfa.

“We are behind many other countries [but] there is great potential for this market,” Shehadi told delegates.

“The Lebanon telecom market has been held back by political problems. We expect that to change in the next few years,” he added.

With a “pent up demand”, the market for mobile services is particularly ripe for growth, Shehadi said. Mobile penetration currently stands at 30% in Lebanon and could easily go up to between 70-90% in just a few years, he said.

Shehadi said the authority, which launched earlier this year, had three main objectives for the next 12 months: firstly the liberalisation of mobile services through issuing two mobile licences whilst privatising the existing operators; secondly the liberalisation of broadband including the issuing of new broadband licences; and thirdly the liberalisation of international services by issuing new gateway licences.

The Ministry of Telecommunications (MoT), which previously oversaw regulatory issues in Lebanon, is in the process of setting up Liban Telecom, the new operator that will inherit the operational functions of the Ministry of Telecommunications and fixed-line operator Ogero, Shehadi said.

Liban Telecom, which will have a PSTN [public switched telephone network] network as well as a mobile licence, is slated for privatisation in 2008, he added.

Despite Shehadi’s optimism, concerns have been raised that the Lebanese government will have trouble passing the necessary laws needed to deregulate its telecoms sector due to the current political stalemate in the country.

In a recent letter to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the government stated it would submit the draft law authorising the sale of the mobile sector at the end of June.

However, Nabih Berri, speaker of the Lebanese parliament and opposition member, has refused to call session and will not receive any documents referred to parliament by the majority government.

The government has previously estimated it could make up to $6 billion by selling off the country’s two state-owned mobile networks.

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