Lebanese ISPs take legal action over 3G deployments
Alfa and MTC don't have licences or spectrum to launch 3G services, says ISP Cedarcom.
Cedarcom, the largest of Lebanon's ISPs, is taking legal action against the country's Ministry of Telecommunications (MoT) and the two government-owned GSM operators, Alfa and MTC, for allegedly violating Lebanon's telecommunications laws.
Cedarcom, which said it was mounting a legal challenge along with a number of other Lebanese ISPs, said that the MoT, Alfa and MTC had breached telecom law 431/2002 by "accepting to manage and operate 3G networks without a license issued by a decree of Council of Ministers and without frequencies licensed by the TRA."
"Despite not having 3G license or 3G frequencies, both Alfa and MTC have taken active steps by cooperating with the suppliers to build the 3G networks. The two new 3G networks are estimated to cost $80 million and will be paid for in total by the Lebanese citizens' tax money, i.e. by public funds," Cedarcom said in a statement.
In early March it emerged that Alfa, which is managed by Orascom Telecom Holding, had selected Ericsson to deploy a 3G network on behalf of the MoC, while MTC Touch, which is managed by Zain Group, had signed an agreement with Huawei to deploy a 3G network.
Cedarcom added that while it supported the introduction of the latest technologies in Lebanon, including VoIP, VDSL, fiber-to-the-home, 3G, 4G, WiMAX, these technologies should be implemented without breaching the law.
The ISP added that it was against "the creation of a new monopoly in wireless broadband services".
Cedarcom added that the Lebanese Telecom Association, whose members include a number of Lebanese ISPs and data providers, had sent numerous letters to the MoT and TRA warning of the "increasing threat of creating a new monopoly in wireless broadband services by introducing 3G services in the absence of 3G licensing, un-equal taxation, and fair competition among government owned and private operators".
"We believe it is time for the Telecom Regulatory Authority to take a decisive transparent regulatory role, enforce the implementation of Law 431, and enforce fair competition and equal taxation on all operators; while Alfa and MTC need to acquire 3G licenses from the Council of Ministers, and acquire for frequencies from the TRA," the statement from Cedarcom added.
In a recent interview with CommsMEA, Dr Imad Hoballah, acting CEO of Lebanon's TRA, expressed concern about the effect of the launch of 3G services by Alfa and MTC. "The 3G by itself is an excellent move and the question that we have at this point is, in the absence of a clear policy, what happens to the private sector. That is a discussion that is currently taking place," he said.
"We will be working with the minister to try to speed up the issuing of the policy, so at least the private sector and we and the rest of the world know where we are going," he added.