There is good news for Lebanon’s telecom sector!
A belated first meeting was held on Friday (August 19) between Telecom Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui and Lebanese Telecom Association (LTA) members Cedarcom-Mobi, Broadband Plus, CableOne, TerraNet, Cyberia, Pesco, Wise, IDM, and GDS.
In addition to Sehnaoui’s advisors, also present were Sodetel and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) interim Chairman Dr. Imad Hoballah.
Sehnaoui announced he has forwarded the draft bill to reduce fees for Internet services — E1s and DSL packages — to the Cabinet for consideration.
While details of the bill were neither revealed nor shared to the disappointment of the private sector, the fact it was sent was seen as an “excellent move” by the telecom minister. To what extent the TRA was involved in drafting the new bill was also not revealed.
Among the issues raised by the LTA members with Sehnaoui and his advisors were concerns about the obstacles they are facing in E1 provisioning, DSL expansion, creation of a one-stop-shop office for ISPs/DSPs, long term licenses, and fair competition.
The LTA members handed the minister an open letter outlining their vision of telecom sector reform – how it will become competitive and spiced with innovations and a competitive customer centric environment (we will post on this soon).
Some LTA members were pleased the TRA’s interim chairman attended the meeting. Sehnaoui confirmed all conflicts between the Telecom Ministry and the TRA are being ironed out in a win-win scenario where each will preserve its rights, powers, and authority.
Cedarcom-Mobi CEO Imad Tarabay said he was happy to hear Sehnaoui championing the implementation of transparent regulations, fair competition, equal taxation, and a healthy private telecom sector.
He added it was a very positive meeting and a portent of excellent news for the telecom industry.
Tarabay is also hoping the positive momentum of the meeting will lead to the release of private sector equipment held up at the airport — since January 2011 in Cedarcom-Mobi’s case — and leading to shortages on the market (see our blog post, Apologies for Mobi modem shortages).
The private sector operators were heartened to hear Sehnaoui believes in “fair competition” among all operators. This is something the private sector hasn’t heard since Minister Gebran Bassil’s departure from the Telecom Ministry.
Several LTA members left the meeting believing Sehnaoui will follow Bassil’s route. Bassil presented a cure for the ailing Internet sector in his 2009 General Rules. It upholds the creation in Lebanon of a “people-centered information society” based on a “vision of growth, investor confidence, public-private partnership, fair competition and transparent regulations.”
Some members promised to send the minister their suggestions for updates to the General Rules.
Tarabay said it was also a positive sign that Sehnaoui is a keen adaptor of technology and supports innovation. The minister, he noticed, carries his iPhone full of apps, including the Dermandar, the mobile application that creates panoramic photos stitching and sharing. It was developed by a new technology startup founded by Elie-Gregoire Khoury with Lebanon’s Berytech and has already had over one million downloads. The minister even took pictures of the meeting and all those present, Tarabay said.
It was certainly a good note to end the week and we hope to bring you more good news soon.
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