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Operator Alfa launches Lebanon’s first LTE-A network

LTE-Advanced network launched by operator Alfa, using technology from Nokia

Alfa, the Lebanese business managed by Egyptian network operator Orascom Telecom, has launched Lebanon’s first 4G LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) network.

According to Alfa, the roll-out of the new network, provided by Nokia, enables it to offer subscribers download speeds of up to 262.5Mbit/s. It will also allow Alfa to target business customers requiring data-intensive applications.

According to the operator’s CEO, Marwan Hayek, the network upgrade has been a long time coming. The Alfa network has seen data traffic of around 15,000 terabytes per year, thanks to 74% of its customer base being data subscribers. Hayek added that Alfa now views network upgrades as a priority.

“The deployment of 4G LTE-A across Lebanon will not only advance the quality of our 4G network, but will also help us quickly move toward next-generation technologies such as 5G, which is a top priority for us to maintain our technology innovation leadership,” he said.

Read more about LTE Advanced

Alfa was the first operator in Lebanon to offer 3G+ mobile services, which it rolled out in 2011. And in 2013, it was the first to offer 4G LTE services in the country. Alfa’s only local competitor, Touch, followed close behind.

That said, in 2015, it was estimated that only around 16% of Lebanon had 4G mobile coverage – even though Alfa said its “state-of-the-art” mobile network covered 99% of the country. The consensus is that in recent years mobile infrastructure has focused on 2G and 3G networks.

Thanks to the government’s “2020 Telecom Vision”, both operators have begun to upgrade their networks. Alfa has entered into a long-term agreement with Nokia to provide some of the upgrades, and is also working with Ericsson, while Touch commissioned the services of Nokia and Huawei.

The technology

Alfa’s recent LTE-A deployment uses carrier aggregation technology, which combines two frequencies to improve throughput and spectral efficiency. Nokia’s solution combines 20MHz on the 1800MHz frequency band with 15MHz on the 800MHz band.

Alfa hopes that this technology will help it to experiment with emerging technologies related to the internet of things (IoT), as well as pave the way for 5G network tests. Nokia and Alfa have signed a deal to explore 5G possibilities for the Alfa network and pave the way for Alfa to install its first 5G site in Lebanon by 2018.

With the government having confirmed funding for much of the work that will make up its 2020 Telecom Vision, analysts expect to see greater progress being made on the country’s mobile networks. The hope is that this will aid Lebanon’s burgeoning startup culture, as well as the country’s growing ICT sector.

Read more on Wireless networking

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