BEIRUT: Alfa unrolled Wednesday the country’s first 4G LTE network in certain areas of Beirut, but very few smartphones in the market will support the service and currently it only applies to data.
Alfa CEO Marwan Hayek said at a news conference that 41,000 devices in the Lebanese market are currently 4G enabled, including the Nokia Lumia 920, the LG Optimus G, the iPad mini, and Galaxy S3 and Note 2 models that support the network, but users must have a new generation SIM card and a Huawei dongle to access it.
Owners of iPhone 5 A1429 will have to wait for Apple to finalize licensing agreements to activate the 4G service in Lebanon.
Though 4G only supports data now, it will allow SMS and incoming and outgoing calls on eligible devices by the end of June and voice over internet calls beginning in 2014.
Hayek said the 4G LTE network is geared to “aggressive data consumption users” and offers connection speeds that are 10 times faster than 3G.
However, some of the Lebanese bloggers who participated in the pilot launch of 4G in April estimated that connection speeds were actually only about three times faster than 3G.
With a price tag varying from $99 per month for a 10 gigabyte data package to $149 for a 40 GB plan and service limited to indoor areas of central Beirut, the 4G service will only benefit a small portion of the population.
Coverage will expand to Jounieh and Kesrouan in November and major cities such as Tripoli, Sidon and Zahle in 2014.
By the end of 2013, 25 percent of the 1,200 4G LTE network sites will be enabled, catering to 40 percent of the population, Hayek said.