One of Lebanon’s two state-owned mobile operators, Alfa, managed by Egypt’s Orascom Telecom Media & Technology (OTMT), has successfully completed the first Lebanese live network test of voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) technology. The test involved a direct VoLTE call made between Minister of Telecommunications Nicolas Sehnaoui and Alfa CEO Marwan Hayek demonstrating a call setup time of less than one second. In a speech by Sehnaoui posted on Alfa’s website, the minister highlighted the importance of the all-IP technology, saying: ‘currently, when a 4G subscriber makes a voice call, there is an automatic transition from 4G to 3G+ network, which will no longer be necessary upon the launch of VoLTE, whereby subscribers can directly conduct voice calls over the 4G network as is the case with internet data services… [VoLTE] provides high-quality sound and significant improvement in quality of voice calls, with greater speed in the call setup time’. He also noted that ‘the launch of this service will take place at the end of the year,’ by which time it is expected that VoLTE will also be deployed by Lebanon’s other cellco Touch, managed by Kuwait’s Zain Group, as the two rivals’ 3G and 4G service launches have generally mirrored each other to date.
Alfa notes that it continues to expand its 4G network, which it claims currently covers around 40% of the population, with LTE high speed data services available across the Greater Beirut area as well as most major cities, namely Tripoli, Jounieh, Jbeil, Batroun, Metn, Chouf, Sidon, Tyre, Nabatieh, Jezzine, Faqra-Kfardebian (where the live VoLTE test took place) and Faraya.