The International Telecommunication Union provides data for mobile network coverage from 2012 to 2016. The average value for Lebanon during this time span was 97.86 percent, with 99.1 percent of inhabitants within range of a mobile signal. Based on ITU’s The State of Broadband 2018 report, the number of mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants is 56.8 (2017 data).
In November 2011, 3G services were launched in the country and subsequently also 4G. According to the website OpenSignal’s latest report (data referring to February 2018), today Lebanon’s 4G users can expect to find a Long-Term Evolution (LTE) signal 74.48 percent of the time. When it comes to 4G speeds, this can depend on many factors: the spectrum devoted to LTE, whether new technologies have been adopted, the network density and congestion. Users connecting to LTE networks in Lebanon experience an average download connection speed of 25.96Mbps. In 2018 was conducted the first successful trial of 5G network within the framework of the “Digital Telecommunications Vision 2020”. Both Alfa and Touch companies are moving steps forward the testing and installation of 5G in Lebanon. Touch was the first to successfully install the first live mobile 5G site providing low latency and a speed of 1.4Gb/s. Since November 2019, in the Rafic Hariri airport in Beirut a 5G network managed by Ogero is available to the passengers travelling through the facility.
‘Arsal, a border town in northeast Lebanon, has been without mobile Internet from August 2014 to September 2017. According to former telecommunications minister Boutros Harb, contacted by Khalid Rifa‘i, the president of a group of civil society organizations in ‘Arsal, this was for “security” reasons. In the town, home to 160,000 residents, including both locals and Syrian refugees, 3G and 4G mobile Internet access was reportedly shut down after Islamist fighters captured and killed Lebanese soldiers. While OGERO continued to operate there, the installation and monthly fees to obtain fixed-line Internet services became exorbitant for the residents of ‘Arsal, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the country. For this reason, the mobile Internet shutdown had effectively cut off the town. Though the Internet has since been restored, there is no law in place to prevent the government from ordering similar shutdowns, and the Telecommunications Law provides it with the authority to do so again.
In the context of the economic crisis, in early 2020 Lebanon faced the risk of not meeting the required amount of foreign currency needed to pay the international internet providers. However, the risk of a complete shutdown of internet services in the country did not occur yet.
It is noteworthy that during the protests started in 2019, the internet connection was not disabled or suspended, as occurred in other countries in the region facing similar situations. The overall speed of connection was however reduced, due to the concentration of people connected to the mobile network in the same time and place.