Under the auspices of His Excellency the Minister of Telecommunications Boutros Harb represented by the Head of the Owner Supervisory Board at the Ministry of Telecommunications, Gilbert Najjar, Alfa, managed by Orascom Telecom, held its annual Media Iftar in honor of the press and media at the Movenpick Hotel. It was attended by Alfa CEO and Chairman Marwan Hayek, the head of the Press Federation Aouni el-Kaaki, and several journalists from the print, audio-visual and electronic media in addition to managers and advisers at the Ministry of Telecommunications and Alfa board members and staff.
The event was marked by Alfa's 20th anniversary, and was an occasion to shed light on the company's history and achievements.
After offering his Ramadan greetings, Hayek welcomed the journalists, pointing out that this gathering is the culmination of a full year of cooperation and an occasion to break bread together and honor "your support to Alfa and your ongoing coverage of the telecommunications sector".
He added that Alfa has recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, as it was the "first operator to launch the mobile service in Lebanon and the region in 1994". Hayek pointed out that he personally was "part of Alfa's first four years and last six years history, thus amounting to half the company's lifetime, and this is what makes me attest to all its distinctive and exceptional moments".
He said that the company, especially during the last 6 years under the management of Orascom Telecom, has been committed to providing a service that allows the Lebanese to stay in contact by keeping up with the fast developments in the telecommunications sector and staying in the lead. "All our achievements would not have been possible without the support of our partners and stakeholders, namely the Ministry of Telecommunications".
Hayek announced that "Alfa is proud to have been able to gather in 20 years nearly two million subscribers, a 3.5 times increase from 2009, when Orascom Telecom began to manage the Alfa network as well as offering coverage through an extensive network of more than 2,700 sites on 99% of the Lebanese territory".
He added that this great increase in the number of subscribers contributed to the growth of mobile penetration in Lebanon from 35% in 2009 to 94% today.
He pointed out that the telecommunications sector is a key pillar of the Lebanese economy and represents between 9% and 10% of the gross domestic product (GDP). He also stated that the cellular services make up 3.27% of the nominal GDP, which is the highest proportion in the Middle East and Africa region, compared to 1.29% in the United Arab Emirates and 2.98% in Saudi Arabia.
Hayek added, "Alfa is also proud of its talented staff that has left its fingerprints on the brightest moments of the telecommunications sector with its achievements. We are proud to say that a large part of our colleagues have become today among the most important officials in the telecommunications sector around the world. We are also proud that the telecommunications sector has become an essential player in limiting the brain drain". He pointed out that "Orascom Telecom has created more than 500 direct new jobs during the past six years. We have also indirectly contributed through the momentum in the telecom sector to the creation of thousands of jobs, thus leading to the creation of 3,000 jobs in the ICT and allied sectors".
Moreover, Hayek said that Alfa's history was marked by its pioneering stages. After launching the first cellular network that included 10 stations in 1994, the company was among the first worldwide to launch the prepaid service in 1997. Alfa was also the 1st company in Lebanon to launch the Clip + service in 1999, the Internet service via GPRS in 2001, Edge technology in 2008, the 1st successful 3G+ call and then the 1st to launch the 3G+ service in 2011, the 1st successful 4G LTE data session and then the 1st to launch the 4G LTE service in Lebanon in 2013, in addition to successfully demonstrating the 1st Voice over LTE - VoLTE call in 2014.
He announced that Alfa is just a few steps away from the 4.5 G technology, and will soon be the pioneer in the region to complete an LTE Advanced technology trial with Internet speeds of up to 350Mbit/sec.
Hayek added that there has been a broad network expansion plan, especially since 2009, to meet the growing demand for services, whereby the 2G capacity was increased three times with the addition of 674 new 2G stations, thus reaching today 1300 stations, which allowed 140 thousand simultaneous calls on the network. Alfa has also put in service more than 1150 3G+ new sites and 242 new 4G LTE sites. Moreover, it concurrently implemented in 2012 and 2013 a Quality of Service improvement plan, which led to an enhanced network performance.
According to Hayek, there was an unprecedented rise in the number of Alfa data subscribers to 1.2 million actual subscribers today that make up 60% of the total subscribers base. These subscribers have a record internet consumption (more than 800TB per month), which has largely exceeded our expectations.
He pointed out that the quality of service has significantly evolved. According to a study by Ericsson for the first quarter of this year, there was a 0.63% drop call rate on Alfa's 2G network, which is one of the lowest in the world and far less than the global average of 1%. Thus, Alfa ranks 14 out of 123 global markets where Ericsson is located. In addition, there was a 0.36% drop call rate on the 3G network, thus putting Alfa in the 9th position out of 62 global markets.
Hayek said, "Since 2009, we have created a new dynamics in the sector, based on the wide experience of Orascom Telecom since 1997 through existing networks in the Middle East, Africa, Asia-Europe, and Canada, across a subscriber base that exceeds 120 million and a market value in excess of 20 billion dollars. This new dynamics resulted in 80 diverse services that we introduced on the Lebanese market and that are addressed to various segments of subscribers such as students, youth, military and security institutions, trade unions, as well as the Internet offers, which contributed to the return of Lebanon to a leading position in cellular services, especially in the M2M services field.
Hayek pointed out that "the company has revived after a long absence the advertising market and sponsorship opportunities for various sports, artistic and social activities, and has spent nearly $25 million since 2009, thus raising the annual spending rate from $300 thousand in 2008 to about $4 million per year starting from 2009".
He said that "this commitment at the service of both the subscribers and the economy did not overshadow our commitment to the community. Indeed, we were pioneers in 2006 at the level of Lebanon and the region in the launch of our Alfa 4-Life CSR program through which we donated together with our subscribers more than $600 thousand, in addition to allocating nearly $1.5 million to support more than 1,500 children with special needs. As a confirmation of the success of our policy both locally and regionally, Alfa has won 16 awards in the areas of social responsibility, innovation, technology, leadership, services, and advertising campaigns among others".
In the end, Hayek hoped that God will protect Lebanon and the Lebanese and wished the attendees a blessed Ramadan and "a lovely 20th anniversary to all of us".