Re­silience in Le­banon

Civil war, de­mo­graphic chal­lenges, slow In­ter­net speeds, and more –Le­banon has had to over­come a lot to grow its telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fra­struc­ture and in­dus­try. And that re­silience – and spirit of in­no­va­tion – means Le­banon to­day is a land rife with opp

Comms MEA - - Contents -

Le­banon has had to over­come a lot. And that re­silience means plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for tel­cos.

Abru­tal and lengthy civil war meant that, at one point, Le­banon had one of the high­est mo­bile pen­e­tra­tion rates in the world. Part of that was out of ne­ces­sity: af­ter all, the con­flict had de­stroyed much of the in­fra­struc­ture for land­lines. But it also shows Le­banon is a place where peo­ple adopt new tech­nolo­gies quickly – a trend which is con­tin­u­ing to­day, mean­ing plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions op­er­a­tors, ven­dors and sup­pli­ers look­ing to ex­pand their cus­tomer base.

There are also some ad­van­tages. For one, Le­banon is quite small ge­o­graph­i­cally, and has a very ur­banised (nearly 9 in 10 Le­banese live in cities, ac­cord­ing to the CIA World Fact­book) pop­u­la­tion. It’s also be­com­ing an in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tion, cre­at­ing greater need for a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent ser­vices and of­fer­ings.

Yet a num­ber of chal­lenges re­main, of course – not least of which in­clude a de­clin­ing do­mes­tic pop­u­la­tion, large in­flux of refugees flee­ing the civil war in neigh­bour­ing Syria, and on­go­ing geopo­lit­i­cal ten­sions in­ter­nally and abroad. An­other chal­lenge: very slow In­ter­net speeds – in fact, as widely re­ported by ma­jor in­ter­na­tional news out­lets such as the BBC, Le­banon was ranked in 2011 as hav­ing the slow­est av­er­age In­ter­net speeds in the en­tire world.

Ac­cord­ing to mar­ket re­search firm OG Anal­y­sis’ 2018 re­port, Le­banon’s telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­dus­try is a re­silient one, adapt­ing to the nu­mer­ous chal­lenges to pro­vide fer­tile ground for tel­cos to in­crease mar­ket share.

Kylie Wansink writes in a 2018 anal­y­sis from telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions re­search site Budde Comm that im­prove­ments to Le­banon’s fixed in­fra­struc­ture in par­tic­u­lar is of­fer­ing new op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“Le­banon’s tele­coms mar­ket holds a unique po­si­tion in the Mid­dle East given the level of gov­ern­ment in­volve­ment. While most in­cum­bents in the re­gion are gov­ern­ment owned, within Le­banon, gov­ern­ment own­er­ship also ex­tends to the coun­try’s two mo­bile op­er­a­tors,” writes Wansink.

“The gov­ern­ment-owned mo­bile net­works are op­er­ated by pri­vate com­pa­nies in re­turn for a man­age­ment fee, with all rev­enue go­ing to the gov­ern­ment. The two net­works are cur­rently op­er­ated by Zain of Kuwait (Touch) and Oras­com of Egypt (Alfa).”

Wansink goes on to state both op­er­a­tors al­ready of­fer 4G LTEE ser­vices, and are plan­ning on launch­ing 5G ser­vices – with the first suc­cess­ful 5G trial in Le­banon hav­ing al­ready been con­ducted.

“The im­prove­ments to Le­banon’s broad­band in­fra­struc­ture will boost the al­ready flour­ish­ing dig­i­tal econ­omy as well as the start-up cul­ture that has at­tracted in­ter­na­tional in­ter­est and recog­ni­tion.”

Wael Bakhit, of the Fac­ulty of Eco­nomics and Man­age­ment at Le­banese Univer­sity (and the Fac­ulty of Man­age­ment at Le­banese French Univer­sity), writes in a re­port ti­tled “Dis­rup­tive in­no­va­tion and its im­pli­ca­tions on Le­banese tele­com in­dus­try” that the na­tion’s telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­dus­try is un­der­go­ing a pe­riod of dis­rup­tion.

As Bakhit writes: “The mo­bile tele­com in­dus­try is chang­ing and the com­pet­i­tive land­scape for mo­bile net­work op­er­a­tors has been dis­rupted. The in­dus­try is shift­ing from an en­vi­ron­ment char­ac­terised by re­li­a­bil­ity and scale of net­works, to an en­vi­ron­ment where choice and flex­i­bil­ity of ser­vices is more prom­i­nent. This has changed the ba­sis of com­pe­ti­tion and rep­re­sents the shift from ‘mo­bile tele­phony’ to ‘mo­bile com­put­ing.’ To­day, this sec­tor plays a key role in the Le­banese econ­omy even if it’s per­form­ing be­low po­ten­tial de­spite growth.”

So, while the Le­banese telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions mar­ket may

The in­dus­try is shift­ing from an en­vi­ron­ment char­ac­terised by re­li­a­bil­ity and scale of net­works, to an en­vi­ron­ment where choice and flex­i­bil­ity of ser­vices is more prom­i­nent. This has changed the ba­sis of com­pe­ti­tion and rep­re­sents the shift from ‘mo­bile tele­phony’ to ‘mo­bile com­put­ing.’ To­day, this sec­tor plays a key role in the Le­banese econ­omy.”

have a ways to go to reach the same level of ma­tu­rity as, say, the United Arab Emi­rates, it would ap­pear there’s plenty of room for growth – and for con­tin­ues re­silience and in­no­va­tion.

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