Parliament’s Media and Communications Committee agreed Wednesday on the need for multiple reforms in the telecommunications sector. Committee chair Hussein Hajj Hasan said lawmakers agreed on a reform agenda that includes implementing telecoms laws, appointing members of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, creating a “Liban Telecom” company and addressing other issues in the sector.
Currently, the Lebanese state runs a telecoms monopoly, owning both of the mobile service providers in the country, whose work is contracted out to private companies: Touch is operated by Kuwaiti provider Zain, while Alfa is operated by Egypt-based Orascom Telecom Holdings. Together they account for the state’s second-largest source of revenue, after taxation.
The state also runs Lebanon’s sole fixed-line provider Ogero, which also manages vital portions of the country’s internet infrastructure.
“We agreed on key issues regarding the employment in Ogero, Alfa and touch, and the [Telecommunications] Minister [Mohamed Choucair] pledged that employment will be based on competency and not based on political or other interventions,” the state-run National News Agency quoted Hajj Hasan as saying.
Hajj Hasan, a Hezbollah MP, also said it was necessary to develop a sort of policy for the use of mobile lines by state employees with no ceiling for usage. “The number of these mobiles lines with employees without a ceiling as per the minister are 5,535,” he said.
The committee also began a discussion of Ogero’s deployment of fiber optics across the country, which will continue in the next session, scheduled for March 13.
The state last year approved a massive project to connect Lebanese internet users with lightning-fast fiber-optic technology. The project is billed at some $283 million, and envisions connecting 85 percent of users at speeds of over 50 megabits a second – more than 10 times as fast as many current connections.
Last February, three local companies won the bid to build the network. SERTA Channels, BMB and PowerTech were paired with international equipment vendors Huawei, Calix and Nokia, respectively.
The Daily Star