BEIRUT: A senior Ericsson executive said there are good business opportunities in Lebanon’s telecom sector. “When I read the report [on the state of the telecom sector in Lebanon], I started to think of the opportunities for businesses. I saw plenty of opportunities in the video and film sector” said Fida Kibbi, vice president of Ericsson MENA, “Video will be one of the key growth areas once the technology is implemented and advanced.”
Kibbi was referring to “The Networked Life in Lebanon,” a report prepared by Ericsson.
Alfa and Ericsson introduced 4G LTE mobile data technology in Lebanon this year, but the service has yet to cover the majority of the country. In addition, it is significantly more expensive than its costly 3G counterpart. Accesses to these services are desired and needed, but not yet available.
Ericsson Lebanon hosted a conference Tuesday to present a research on Lebanese consumer behavior within the telecom industry.
The company has been operating in Lebanon for many years and has cooperated with the current cellular operators as well as the Telecommunications Ministry to expand and improve 3G and 4G service.
“The consumers will set the agenda. You cannot avoid what they want,” Kibbi told the attendees.
Ericsson Consumerlab reported several key findings providing integral insight for emerging Lebanese businesses, the first being general growth of positivity within the technology sector.
Tony Abboud, country manager of Ericsson Lebanon, stressed that “Lebanese users are positive about technology. They believe that it improves quality of life and offers more job opportunities.”
This positivity and confidence in technology is reflected in the rise of a “networked lifestyle” among the population. According to the Ericsson Consumerlab report, 68 percent of the Lebanese population own at least two or more connected devices.
In comparison to the other 180 Ericsson operating countries, the report concluded, “Lebanese consumers are primarily mobile users, with 79 percent mobile broadband ownership compared to 69 percent [abroad].” This distinction of mobile broadband usage is imperative in understanding the landscape of the Lebanese telecom sector. It also sheds light on how business might evolve in the future.
Among mobile and fixed broadband users between ages 15 and 69, 54 percent rely more on the former whereas a mere 12 percent rely on the latter. The dependence on mobile broadband can possibly be attributed to the lack of access to infrastructure preventing a stable fixed broadband network within the country. When asked about this shortcoming, Abboud replied, “No comment.”
To ensure connectivity, it seems that the Lebanese population relies to their mobile plans.
According to the report, 76 percent of users use less than 1 gigabyte each month. Despite a high volume of users, data consumption is quite low.
The report said that 46 percent of consumers in Lebanon participate in at least two social networking communities. “We’re on WhatsApp, Skype, Viber and Messenger to list a few,” Abboud said.
In the past year, 29 percent more Lebanese consumers between the ages of 16 and 59 “reported an increase in their usage of internet calls on mobile apps.” In the same period of time there was a 27 percent increase of usage in instant messaging apps.
“We’re socially connected, but we’re not pushing beyond this.” Abboud added.
In collective intelligence communities such as Uber and Airbnb, Lebanese are less invested. “While research has not pinpointed exactly why this is, we can possible attribute it to the high price of data, as well as the limitations on its service,” Abboud said.
Overall, the report opened conversations about gaps within the telecom industry as well as the possible opportunities they offered. Kibbi opens the conversation toward global trends, making parallels between Lebanon and countries abroad.