Company profiles

Lebanon has two mobile phone companies, Alfa and Touch. Both operators are owned and closely controlled by the supervisory board of TRA. Therefore, both of them share their entire data ware with governmental authorities upon their request. (Media outlets often report news of arrests of alleged criminals on the basis of such data).

However, day-to-day management is outsourced to two private companies, respectively Global Telecom Holdings and Zain. The first, former Orascom Telecom, is an international telecommunication company based in the Netherlands and operating mobile networks in various nations; the latter is a Kuwaiti company. However, both operators have an agreement with the government, which stipulates that all revenue go to the State, in exchange for a monthly fixed sum. This explains both the lack of investment from the mobile operators, since they will be paid a fixed amount regardless of the revenue or lack thereof, and the low level of competition in the sector, since the two companies split the market evenly between themselves (Touch is the leading mobile and data operator with a market share standing at 53 percent, according to the company’s website).

In May 2015, Touch launched al-Tawasol (Communication), a product explicitly targeting “Syrians in Lebanon”, according to the company publicity material. At a lower price compared to the normal monthly bundle (US$11 vs an average of US$25 per month), it includes calls and SMS texts to Syria, in addition to local Lebanese calls and SMS. The package also incorporates data but with a limited capacity of 100MB. While some Syrians have smartphones many are still reliant on feature phones for whom data is less of a priority. By the end of 2016, over 50,000 customers were using the al-Tawasol package.