Under the auspices of H.E. the Minister of Telecommunications Boutros Harb, represented by Mr. Gilbert Najjar, head of the Owner Supervisory Board of Mobile Companies at the Ministry of Telecommunications, Alfa, managed by Orascom Telecom, held the annual Media Iftar event honoring the press and the media corps at Abdel Wahab Restaurant in Achrafieh.
Alfa CEO and Chairman Mr. Marwan Hayek, representatives of the heads of the Press Syndicate and the Press Editors Syndicate, and several print media, television, and radio figures, attended the Iftar. Also present at the event were senior directors and advisers from the Ministry of Telecommunications, members of Alfa’s board, as well as Alfa staff.
After a message of congratulations for the holy month of Ramadan, Mr. Hayek expressed praise and gratitude for the press and the media for their constant coverage of and engagement with Alfa and the telecom sector in general. He said, “The large crowd present in this gathering is an affirmation of our endurance in our land, in our beloved homeland Lebanon; of our attachment to it; and of our will to live, which will remain strong in the face of all circumstances.”
Mr. Hayek then overviewed the most prominent projects Alfa implemented last year, including most notably the introduction of 4G LTE technology in Lebanon.
The Alfa CEO and Chairman said, “We were the first operator in the Arab world and North Africa to launch this service. To date, 250 4G LTE sites were installed in Lebanon, especially in the major cities, accounting for 25 percent of the network and covering 40 percent of subscribers.” He continued, “After launching the 4G LTE service, we implemented a pilot project in Lebanon for Voice over LTE, becoming the second operator after the UAE to do so in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. This service is not yet available globally and is still being tested.”
Mr. Hayek then pointed out, “We have improved customer service through social media, and we are now available round the clock and throughout the week to answer any complaints.” “Among the most important services launched recently was payment through NFC technology, in partnership with Bank Audi and MasterCard. According to MasterCard, we were the first country in the Arab world and East Africa to launch this service,” he added.
Mr. Hayek also addressed reductions in telecom tariffs and higher Internet speeds, which have increased by up to four times their previous levels since June 1, pursuant to a decision by the Lebanese Council of Ministers based on the recommendation of H.E. the Minister of Telecommunications Boutros Harb. Hayek said, “This decision has led to a marked increase in the number of subscribers using Alfa’s data services, as well as voice call subscribers and data consumption. This highlights the subscribers’ positive reaction to these decisions, and their impact on stimulating the national economy.”
According to Mr. Hayek, Alfa is continually expanding and upgrading the network to improve the quality of service. He explained, “Until the end of June 2014, 100 additional 2G and 3G sites were installed throughout Lebanon,” adding that the number of sites on the Alfa network reached 1250.
The number of Alfa subscribers had reached 1.9 million by the end of June, Mr. Hayek continued, noting that “the number of subscribers using Alfa data services has increased to one million and fifty thousand subscribers (1,050,000), an increase of 34 percent relative to June of last year.” He then revealed that 70 percent of Alfa subscribers use smartphones, a percentage that puts Lebanon on par with developed nations such as the United States and Sweden, as he said. Mr. Hayek pointed out that Alfa and Lebanon are among the world’s top five in terms of smartphone penetration among subscribers, with the Samsung brand accounting for 59 percent of smartphones used by the subscribers, followed by Nokia and Apple with 50 percent and 12 percent respectively.
Concerning the distribution of voice-call consumption in Lebanon’s regions, Mr. Hayek said the district of Metn came first, followed by Beirut, and then Baabda. Metn also came first in data consumption, followed by Beirut and Kesserwan. But the Alfa CEO and chairman noted that income levels affect how subscribers use their mobile phones. Citing the regions that suffer from chronic underdevelopment as an example he said that the top consumer of SMS messages is the district of Akkar, followed by Dinniyeh, and then Tripoli, meaning that the top three consumers of SMS services are all in the North Lebanon governorate.
Turning to the causes of dropped calls, Mr. Hayek said that cellular phone networks are designed on the basis of no more than a 1- or 2-percent dropped-call rate, which differs from country to country according to things like topography, population density, the frequencies used, and the technologies in service.
In the same vein, Mr. Hayek overviewed the latest service quality reports published by Ericsson and Nokia, showing the reliability of Alfa’s network and the quality of its performance that positions it well compared to other international operators in more than 122 countries around the world, in terms of both quality and level of development.
Mr. Hayek then reiterated “our commitment to society in Lebanon, specifically through our Corporate Social Responsibility program “Alfa-4Life”, our program to support the integration of people with special needs in the community, educational and therapeutic programs that we launch for children with special needs, and donation campaigns through the number 1004, where $100,000 was donated last year by our subscribers.” “We also contributed to the rehabilitation center for drug addiction Oum El Nour, as well as launching several awareness campaigns, including one against using mobile phones while driving, in the hope of preventing mobile phone addiction,” he concluded.