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Lebanon Plans Major Shake-Up of Mobile Networks

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Lebanon's government has dropped the long stalled plans to privatise the two state owned mobile networks in favour of a shake up of the mobile market.

The two mobile networks are managed under an annually renewing license by Orascom and Zain and the government has been trying for several years to sell them - but has been constantly thwarted by political disagreements.

The new plans could see the mobile network infrastructure merged into a single platform, and then a number of MVNOs allowed to operate on top of that.

Nicolas Sehnaoui, the Lebanese telecoms minister told The National that the government could sell a nominal three percent stake in the infrastructure company, and that three to five private companies would be offered licenses to resell the mobile services.

The proposal has already been seen by the President and Prime Minister and is expected to be passed to the Council of Ministers in the next few weeks. However, the plans could take several years to be implemented.

The mobile networks contribute about 40% of the government's revenues - which was the main factor in the opposition to the privatisation of the two mobile networks.

Lebanon's two operators were originally set up under a 10-year Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) agreement, back in June 2001, the government controversially cancelled the BOT licenses held by LibanCell and Cellis which were not due to expire until 2004. The government then invited bidders to manage the networks on its behalf, and the concession was eventually awarded to Zain and Alfa.

The two management companies currently receive USD2.5 million per month in addition to 8.5% of the revenues.

On the web: The National

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Tags: alfa  zain  Lebanon