Lebanon's government is to take back management of the country's two state-owned mobile phone networks, Alfa and Touch, after the recent expiration of the latest contracts given to the groups that have been running the networks until now.
The government also plans to prepare a new tender within three months, according to a number of news reports. This information was apparently revealed in a tweet from Telecommunications Minister Talal Hawat earlier this week. His ministry will run the networks until the tenders are awarded.
Despite having a population of close to seven million, the country only has two service providers. Alfa and Touch serve an estimated combined subscription base of close to five million, a useful source of revenues for the cash-strapped country. Alfa has been run by Egypt's OTMT since 2009. Touch has been run by Kuwait's Zain Group since 2004.
The contracts have been regularly renewed in the past, so it is not clear why the government has found it necessary to take back management of both mobile phone networks. Nor has it been explained how this will affect the many subscribers of the two services.
As news reports have pointed out, the country has been dealing with a major financial and economic crisis for some time, and high prices, exacerbated by a fall in the value of the country’s currency, have led to protests. Phone bills, said to be among the most expensive in the region, have been among the grievances cited by protestors.