Alfa Wednesday signed a contract with Ericsson and Nokia to install a 4.5G service network throughout the country.
Another memo of understanding was signed between the same parties to build a 5G network in the future.
The event, which took place at the Four Seasons Hotel, was attended by Telecom Minister Boutros Harb and representatives of the firms.
The contracts are part of Harb’s 2020 plan to overhaul and modernize the entire telecom and Internet services across the country.
“This meeting is the first practical step in the project which I unveiled in April 2015 to admit Lebanon into the new world of 4th generation of cellular services,” the minister told the participants at the signing ceremony.
The minister previously said only 16 percent of Lebanon is currently covered by a 4G connection, while most of the country is still working on 2G and 3G. “We have been receiving a lot of complaints regarding the malfunction of the Internet connectivity. This is why we need to work hard on developing this project,” he said.
Harb said the cost of implementing this new five-year plan is not too high compared to the losses incurred by Lebanon in the absence of such an important technology.
“The project will cost over $600 million but it will be fully covered by the budget of the Telecommunications Ministry,” he said.
Harb said Lebanon ranked at the bottom of the ladder in terms of telecom and Internet growth, noting that the country’s position improved gradually after his ministry adopted new measures to overhaul this sector.
The minister said thanks to the investment made in this sector and the cooperation of the companies, Lebanon now ranks in seventh place in the Arab world in the telecom field.
“Lebanon has now entered the 4th cellular generation [4.5G] all over Lebanon. There won’t be a point in the country until it’s covered by this service,” Harb said.
He pledged to complete the 4.5G network by the end of September of this year.
Lebanon currently offers the 4G Internet cellular service.
But some critics say even 4G has not yet covered all parts of Lebanon.
According to the plan prepared by Harb and his team, the financing of the 2020 fiber-optic network will be fully covered from the revenues of the telecom ministry.
Total revenues generated from the cellular networks and land-line service are close to $2 billion a year, the second source of income to the state.
The government has renewed the contracts with the current cellular operators Alfa and touch.
Harb said that the contracts with the international companies were conducted in a transparent manner, rejecting allegations that there were suspicious deals and transactions at his ministry.
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