Talking in public

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The ministry of telecommunications and its network-operating subsidiary, Ogero, have installed the first wave of public payphones in Lebanon, with apparent success. The rollout began in late 2003 with payphones at Beirut airport and in the capital. According to ministry figures, installation shall continue until 4,000 public phones are available nationwide. The total project cost is $8 million.

The new network offers consumers an affordable alternative to mobile telephone communication. It employs the same smart card technology that has been successful around the world, but the new payphones do not accept coins. The prepaid card required to operate the phone offers the buyer of a LL10,000 card 100 minutes of domestic landline talk time. Rates for calling a mobile phone are priced at three times that, at LL300 per minute. The public phones also allow international calls, reportedly at rates below those from a regular landline phone. For the time being, customers have to visit an Ogero telephone exchange to purchase a card. Representatives at Ogero

Thomas Schellen

Thomas Schellen is Executive's editor-at-large. He has been reporting on Middle Eastern business and economy for over 20 years.