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Lebanese Telecom Sector Supports the Rapid Growth of the Digital Market

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March 14th, Beirut: A global boom in the digital sector has attracted the interest of telecom operators worldwide, who are working to carve their role in the ecosystem of mobile content, applications and services, with Lebanon as no exception.

Leading Lebanon’s push into digital is the Ministry of Telecommunications, which has driven major infrastructural improvements in the sector. Enabled by these developments, Lebanon has witnessed an exceptional growth in 3G subscriptions, jumping from 280,000 users in 2011 to more than 1.3M users today according to statistics provided by Alfa and Touch. Smartphone penetration is also on the rise, with more than 1.8M devices registered across the two networks.

Such rapid growth in the sector has enabled Lebanese telecom operator Alfa, managed by Orascom Telecom Media and Technology, to begin laying groundwork for the launch of 4G services nationwide. “Lebanon’s mobile sector is a leader in next generation mobile technologies, especially with Alfa becoming among the first in the region to deploy 4G-LTE on its network,” stated Marwan Hayek, Chairman and CEO of Alfa.

And as voice and SMS revenues decline globally and regionally, operators are looking for ways to create new revenue streams through mobile content, applications and advertising. Alfa launched the first App Store in Lebanon, offering developers a platform to show their apps to Lebanese consumers. Touch has sought to engage the community of local developers in a different way by introducing Touch Cloud, a set of development tools and services for programmers to build mobile apps. Nadim Khater, Touch Chief Commercial Officer, said, “Touch has made a significant step towards claiming our role in the digital space with our ‘touch app cloud’ value proposition.” He added, “it’s a set of sophisticated services to helps developers build apps faster, and enable them to monetize by billing directly to the customers’ mobile accounts.”

Beyond these infrastructural improvements, Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui has also launched a number of campaigns aimed at engaging the digital and startup community in Lebanon, including the National Mobile Programming Competition and the Lebanese Bloggers Reinvent the World Competition. He has shown further support for the industry through frequent appearances at startup weekends and hackathons across the country. "Lebanon can and will be a digital hub because it is heavily investing in its infrastructure and because it has four million reasons to attract investors—namely our individual brains, talents, and creativity," stated Minister Sehnaoui.

From March 20-22, these telecom leaders, along with over 600 web and mobile professionals and entrepreneurs, will take part in ArabNet Beirut, the largest regional event for the digital creative sectors. ArabNet Beirut is held under the High Patronage of the H.E. President General Michel Sleiman, in collaboration with the Central Bank of Lebanon, with the support of the Ministry of Telecommunications, and in strategic partnership with Bank Audi. The event kicks off with a Design + Code Day, a program of workshops to help developers and designers build better web and mobile products. It continues with two Forum Days dedicated to business opportunities in online advertising and social media, music and video, food and beverage, gaming, e-retail, and entrepreneurship.

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