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Lebanese operators incur legal challenge for preparing 3G services without spectrum licences

Despite the fact that no licences have been issued, two Lebanese operators – MTC and Alfa – have taken steps towards launching 3G services, in a move which has prompted broadband provider Cedarcom and several other operators to pursue legal action against them and the country’s Ministry of Telecom.

Cedarcom has issued a statement claiming that “despite not having 3G license or 3G frequencies, both Alfa and MTC have taken active steps by cooperating with the suppliers to build the 3G networks. The two new 3G networks are estimated to cost US$80 million and will be paid for in total by the Lebanese citizens’ tax money, i.e. by public funds.”

The two operators in question are both part of larger groups – respectively, Alfa and MTC are managed by Orascom and Zain. Cedarcom has demanded that the two demonstrate that they hold the requisite licences for providing 3G service, saying: “we asked Alfa and MTC to publish their 3G licences and their licensed 3G frequencies without any reply till date, and we challenge them again now in front of the public: Did you get 3G licensed by the Council of Ministers? Did you get 3G frequencies licensed by the TRA [Telecommunications Regulatory Authority]?”

However, reports indicate that the Ministry of Telecom “brushed off” the possible legal threat, counter-arguing that the companies responsible for the rollout of infrastructure are exempt from licensing laws as they are owned by the state. The two companies, Mobile Interim Company One and Mobile Interim Company Two, are managed by Alfa and Zain respectively.

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