Lebanese cellco Alfa has commercially launched its LTE 4G mobile broadband network, with coverage initially in central Beirut, offering data services for USB dongle modems, tablets and Wi-Fi routers for post- and pre-paid users, with support for 4G mobile handsets ‘coming soon’. Alpha built its 4G network in cooperation with European vendors Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks, and according to the operator’s press release, its planned deployment of around 300 active LTE base stations by the end of 2013 will cover roughly 40% of the population, representing approximately 25% of a 1,200 base station network necessary for nationwide coverage. The LTE coverage footprint will be expanded to Jounieh and Kesrouan by November this year, while other cities are scheduled to receive coverage in 2014, including Tripoli, Sidon and Zahle. Alfa, which is state-owned but managed by Egypt’s Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holding (OTMT), is offering consumers (post- or pre-paid) several new data packages aimed at 4G usage, including 10GB, 20GB and 40GB bundles (costing USD99, USD119 and USD149) whilst business customers can purchase packages up to 100GB (USD249). Voice call support for 4G handset users (via the 3G/2G network) is expected by the end of June 2013, Alfa has disclosed, whilst it estimates that voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) will be available on the network by the end of 2014.
Users outside of 4G coverage zones will automatically access 3G data services. At the launch, Lebanon’s minister of telecoms, Nicolas Sehnaoui, said that further 3G coverage improvements would also be going ahead to provide comprehensive high speed data services (whilst stating that the 4G launch will take some of the data traffic pressure away from 3G networks). Sehnaoui noted that Alfa and rival cellco Touch would complete respective projects to deepen 3G indoor reception, strengthening their 3G coverage in many locations, ‘between the end of August and the end of this year.’