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Harb takes aim at mobile service

File - The MTC Touch building is seen in Beirut, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Mobile phone operators Tuesday will present to Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb proposals to reduce call interruptions after he urged the firms to find solutions within the next 24 hours.

“Upon the request of the minister, our company will submit a study and proposals to improve the cellular network services. Among the reasons for the technical problems is the presence of repeaters and jammers in some buildings which have affected the performance of the network in general,” a representative of one of the companies told The Daily Star Monday.

Harb, who was criticized by some quarters and news media for the deterioration of the cellular services, has met with the heads of touch and Alfa Monday as well as Ogero officials in a bid to find quick and effective solutions for this chronic problem.

“The companies agreed to submit quick studies to identify the sources of problems and the best ways to solve them,” Harb said in a statement, noting that even most countries that had advanced technologies experienced such problems. “Our ambition is that the two operators will be able to provide the best service to the Lebanese under the current conditions of the networks,” he added.

Many Lebanese households illegally install jammers and repeaters on top of their buildings to enhance the reception of their Internet and other communication devices, and this ultimately affects the quality of mobile calls in Lebanon, according to some telecom experts.

There are close to 4 million mobile subscribers in Lebanon, representing 90 percent penetration.

The operators believe that this penetration could reach up to 150 percent if there is open competition in the market.

According to the contracts with the mobile operators, the Telecommunications Ministry is responsible for upgrading the networks with the help of the firms.

All successive telecommunications ministers have tried to tackle this problem, but no drastic action has been taken to improve the service.

The firms said Lebanese authorities may need to crack down on the proliferation of repeaters and jammers in many buildings.

“We also have external factors which are beyond the capability of the companies,” a representative of one of the operators explained, but declined to elaborate on the matter.

The companies added that the presence of 2 million Syrian refugees has exacerbated the technical problems as many of these refugees use prepaid lines.

“The government has made big investments to improve and enhance the networks, but this process cannot stop,” a company official said.

The companies stressed that the 3G and 4G Internet services were still operating normally and there were no complaints about them.

The contracts of touch and Alfa will expire at the end of the month amid indications that the government will automatically renew them for three months.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 26, 2014, on page 5.

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Summary

Mobile phone operators Tuesday will present to Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb proposals to reduce call interruptions after he urged the firms to find solutions within the next 24 hours.

There are close to 4 million mobile subscribers in Lebanon, representing 90 percent penetration.

All successive telecommunications ministers have tried to tackle this problem, but no drastic action has been taken to improve the service.

The companies added that the presence of 2 million Syrian refugees has exacerbated the technical problems as many of these refugees use prepaid lines.


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