Mobile network ecosystem
The telecommunication regulator in Lebanon is al-Hay’a al-munazzima li-l-ittisalat (Telecommunications Regulatory Authority - TRA), which was established in accordance with Law 431 of 2002 as an independent public institution designated to liberalise, regulate, and develop telecommunications in Lebanon.
According to this law, licenses to providers of mobile phone services are awarded by decree issued by the Council of Ministers, upon the proposal of the Minister, after conducting an international public auction, and according to specifications and conditions prepared by the TRA. Beyond issuing licenses and regulations, the TRA is also responsible for developing the sector, monitoring for any abuse of dominant market position and anti-competitive practices and taking remedial action when necessary. However, also in this field, the current situation provides ample evidence that this provision offers scarce protection to consumers. Through the two national mobile companies (see next paragraph), the government maintains a substantial monopoly in the sector, which results in a lack of competition in the market that has kept tariffs relatively high and delayed the expansion of network services to underserved areas, such as rural zones and large parts of the Biqa‘ valley.
As reported by Byblos Bank’s economic research publication Lebanon This Week, Lebanon has the highest prepaid cellular package rate in the Arab world, as of May 2015. This data was deduced through a survey conducted by Jordan-based research and consulting firm Arab Advisors Group about the cellular market in the Arab world, which compares the cell rates of 39 mobile phone operators across 16 Arab countries, ranking countries on the basis of their prevailing mobile rates, including applicable taxes. In fact, up to May 2015, consumers in Lebanon were paying US$25 per month, a figure that has increased since, whereas the average in Arab countries was US$7.67. In parallel, the survey indicates that the validity period of a prepaid recharge card in Lebanon is 30 days, the shortest among Arab countries. The two mobile phone companies operating in the country require prepaid cards to be recharged every 30 days, penalising users who miss the deadline by seizing their remaining credit and then deactivating their line, forcing them to buy a new one.