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Lebanese operators cut mobile tariffs and charges

Reductions in line with government’s proposals to increase subscriber numbers

Lebanese operator Alfa yesterday announced that it had joined MTC Touch in cutting its post paid tariffs and fees in accordance with government plans to reduce rates and increase subscriber numbers.

The move by Lebanon’s Council of Ministers to cut tariffs by 40% and calls by 15% is part of a drive to make services accessible to a greater proportion of the population and to increase both operators’ subscriber numbers by 400,000 each.

Lebanon was the first country in the Middle East to launch a mobile network in 1994, but compared with other countries in the region the sector is extremely under-developed; mobile penetration is only 33%; tariffs are among the highest in the region and 85% of mobile devices imported illegally, according to research firm Budde.

At present, Orascom managed Alfa claims 600,000 subscribers, while MTC Touch, which is managed by Zain, has 800,000.

Chairman and CEO of Orascom managed Alfa, Samer Salameh, said he believed the reductions would “catalyse a steep growth in the Lebanese mobile sector”.

Both operators have introduced a monthly tariff of $15, reduced from $25, while the cost per minute for calls has been cut from 13 cents to 11 cents. The changes took effect on 1st March.

In a statement, Alfa added that postpaid lines will be sold at $50 instead of the existing $100.

MTC Touch, which is managed by Kuwait-based Zain, is also offering one free hour of local talk-time with every purchase of a “Touch” line during March 2009.

Changes to prepaid tariffs are due to be introduced in April.