Lebanon’s Higher Council for Privatisation (HCP) has revived long-dormant plans to convert state-owned incumbent PSTN operator Ogero into a new company named Liban Telecom, to be licensed for a full range of fixed and mobile communications services, via merging the telco with two departments of the Ministry of Telecommunications (MoT). TeleGeography notes that the formation of Liban Telecom – and its mobile licensing – is also a pre-requisite for proposals (currently suspended) to privatise the country’s two mobile networks, Alfa and Touch. The 2002 Telecoms Act states that once formed, 40% of Liban Telecom will be sold to a strategic partner by international tender within two years of its creation, leaving the government to sell the remainder according to whatever terms and timetable it sees fit. When it is finally formed, Liban Telecom will be issued with a new 20-year licence covering all fixed/mobile/internet/data services, nationwide core/metro/access network operations and international gateways. It will initially hold onto its exclusivity in the PSTN local and domestic long-distance (DLD) voice telephony sector.
Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star reports that during a meeting on Wednesday headed by Prime Minister Tammam Salam, HCP reactivated Law 431 (the Telecoms Law) of 2002, following a proposal by telecoms minister Butros Harb, who argued that the establishment of Liban Telecom was essential for developing the telecoms sector and the economy in general, and the meeting attendees tasked HCP’s secretariat to carry out the necessary legal, financial and structural studies for the creation of Liban Telecom as a joint-stock company (S.A.L). Guidelines to be discussed in the next Cabinet session include the proposed partnership between Lebanon’s private and public sectors. HCP’s meeting came one day after the visit of World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim, and followed a World Bank recommendation to privatise the main services sectors in Lebanon. HCP’s next meeting will examine proposals for privatisation of Lebanon’s weak electricity sector.