Harb lines up unlimited broadband in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb Friday unveiled Lebanon’s first unlimited broadband plan, while cutting prices and increasing speeds on existing DSL services in addition to introducing new offers on landline, cellular and 3G services.

Harb said the monthly price of the new 2 megabits per second unlimited download plan would be LL75,000. Previously, for LL75,000, consumers could get a 2 Mbps plan with a 20 gigabyte data limit, paying LL6,000 per additional gigabyte.

“Around 330,000 subscribers will benefit from the new unlimited plan,” he said.

The entry-level DSL plan, still priced at L24,000, will be upgraded to 2 Mbps with a 40 GB cap, compared with the previous 1 Mbps and 4 GB of data.

The 4 Mbps plan will see its price drop to LL50,000, from LL75,000, and have its usage allowance increased from 25 GB to 50 GB.

The 6-8 Mbps plan will now cost LL65,000 and include 60 GB of data.

The new plans and prices have been passed in three new decrees by the council of ministers, and will go into effect on July 1, Harb said.

The minister also announced that the data limit for the 3G service would increase from 150 megabytes to 500 MB for $10, from 750 MB to 1,500 MB for $19 and from 1,500 MB to 5,000 MB for $29.

As for the cellular rates, they will be reduced from 36 cents per minute to 25 cents per minute for prepaid lines while the SMS price will drop from 9 cents to 5 cents.

Harb added that subscribers in the postpaid lines would be offered an additional free hour to make up for the $15 paid at the beginning of every month without benefitting from any additional services.

Harb has also canceled the installation fee for new landlines and reduced the fixed monthly fee paid on landlines from LL12,000 to LL9,000.

“The revenues of the Telecommunications Ministry will increase by LL23 billion annually due to the expected increase in subscribers to the landline service by 100,000 as a result of the drop in prices,” he said.

Harb said the ministry had conducted a study to assess the impact of these changes on the revenues of the Telecoms Ministry.

“We found out that the first few months following the reduction in prices of the Internet service will witness a monthly drop of only LL100 million, which could be offset by the revenues generated from the changes introduced on the landline service and which amount to LL23 billion annually,” he said.

Since becoming telecoms minister in February, Harb has promised to enact sweeping changes in the sector to attract new investment in Lebanon and secure lower prices for the country’s consumers.

“The economy cannot prosper and grow without modern, affordable and high quality telecom services,” he said.

Harb said there is a direct link between the modernization of a country’s telecoms sector and an increase in its GDP.

“These steps are necessary to create new job opportunities for young people in addition to putting an end to the brain drain and attracting new investments,” he added.

In his presentation, Harb criticized previous ministers for allegedly violating Law 431, which came into force in 2002 to provide a framework for governing the organization of the telecommunications sector and to set the rules for its privatization.

He claimed the new rates represented the ministry’s recommitment to Law 430.

Telecoms are the third largest source of income for the Treasury, with revenues reaching over $1.4 billion a year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 24, 2014, on page 4.




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