BEIRUT: Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb said Thursday that telecom operators of state-owned mobile networks have until May 12 to improve the quality of their networks or face the termination of their contracts.
Harb had warned Wednesday that both Zain Group, which operates the touch network, and Orascom Telecom, which operates Alfa, had only a few hours to repair network malfunctions. He met with a representative of Zain Group Thursday.
Experts say that despite huge investment in upgrading the telecoms sector, the quality of the service remains poor, and customers complain that on some occasions phone calls are cut off or interrupted.
Officials from both telecom operators and the ministry were unavailable for comment.
The contracts with Zain Group and Orascom Telecom were extended last February, and will expire at the end of the month. The government is expected to launch a new tender to award the management of both networks to private companies, and if unsuccessful might consider the direct management of the networks, a source told The Daily Star.
Harb said that the quality of the networks’ service has started to deteriorate since February as both operators failed to address a recent increase in technical malfunctions.
“All subscribers are entitled to uninterrupted calls without being forced to redial the same number three to four times to finish a conversation, particularly [considering] that the citizen is paying a high bill to both companies that is calculating the duration of the call on a per minute rather than per second basis,” he said.
“When I took over the ministry, the situation was better and suddenly it started deteriorating. Both operators have failed to assume their responsibilities such as informing me and the office supervisory board of network malfunctions when they occur.”
Harb also discussed with the head of the General Confederation of Workers Union Maroun Khawli and head of the Syndicate of Telecom Merchants in Lebanon Paul Zaytoun the introduction of new regulations to reform the telecoms sector and lower the cost of mobile calls.
In March, Harb pledged to slash the prices of phone and Internet services before his term in office expired.
He said his plans could not be implemented without the approval of the Cabinet and Finance Ministry.
The telecoms sector generates more than $1.5 billion a year for the treasury, making it the third-largest source of state income.