Home Lebanon News in Brief

News in Brief

Telecoms and Electricity

by Executive Staff

Telecoms: Broadband please

Lebanon has long been plagued by archaic Internet speeds. But that may change by the end of the year. At a recent regional telecom conference held in Beirut, Samer Salameh, chairman and chief executive officer of Alfa, managed by Orascom Telecom, announced that his company would introduce mobile broadband services to the Lebanese market by the end of this year.

If implemented, Lebanon’s mobile users will have the ability to download various types of media onto their mobile devices at speeds dozens of times faster than the current fixed service maximum. Since Lebanon’s telecommunications industry still falls under government control, the state will foot the implementation bill. The new service will compliment the recent expansion undertaken by Lebanon’s two mobile operators subsequent to renewing their management contracts with the Lebanese government. The move by the government will also allow the mobile industry to leapfrog the country’s fixed telecommunications services.

“It’s great,” says Salam Yamout, member of the board at the Lebanese Broadband Stakeholders Group. “I hope it is not a public relations stunt.”

Alfa declined to comment on the issue.

It wouldn’t be the first time mobile networks have bypassed the fixed service, said Riad Bahsoun, telecom expert at the International Telecommunications Union.

“In Lebanon, the priority and the focus has always been on mobile services rather than the fixed services,” he said.

To use the new technology, however, customers will have to beef up their mobile devices.

“Service availability depends… on the availability of handsets and data cards on a mass scale,” says Patrick Eid, board member and head of the market and competition unit at Lebanon’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority. “Unless end users’ handsets and terminals are abundantly available at affordable prices, there will be no true mass market and true choice for consumers.”

Bahsoun, however, is confident that proposed pricing models for the new service will penetrate the market.

“Prices will be high in the beginning but… will start to drop quite immediately,” he said. The news is encouraging but nothing is assured as the formation of a new cabinet and selection of a telecommunications minister may further slow the process.

Electricity: Shorting out

With the summer months approaching, Lebanon will need more power. According to figures issued by the country’s Ministry of Energy and Water earlier this year, the demand for constant power generation peaks at around 2,200 megawatts of electricity. At present however, the country only produces around 1,500 megawatts, resulting in widespread power cuts.

But there has been some respite lately. The Ksara relay station in the west of the country, which can handle up to 400 megawatts, has recently come online. The station is connected to the ‘ring of eight’ power grid, which connects a total of eight countries in the region to the same power grid and can potentially supply Lebanon all the electricity it needs.

But the reality is not that simple.

“Now that the station has been completed, they have to agree on the price and the source [of the energy],” says Chafic Abisaid, president of the Lebanese Solar Energy Society.

The electricity provided to Lebanon will come from Egypt and royalties will have to be paid to both Jordan and Syria, according to Abisaid. On May 29, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported that power started to flow to Lebanon through Syria via the ring of eight, but there have been reports that the stream of power has been intermittent.

The Lebanese government currently spends up to $1 billion per year on subsidies to its electricity sector and experts estimate that the country will need a further $2 billion of investment to meet the country’s energy demand by 2015.

Even though the power station at Ksara can handle up to 400 megawatts, it is expected to supply only around 300 megawatts, according to Abisaid.

To import more power, Lebanon would need to build another power station, which is currently unlikely for Lebanon’s cash-strapped government. The increased demand for power in the summer months makes it likely the Lebanese will be left without air conditioning for several hours per day, despite the increased capacity.

Support our fight for economic liberty &
the freedom of the entrepreneurial mind

Executive Staff


View all posts by

You may also like