That most precious of Lebanon’s natural resources is being attacked by Syria, according to Telecoms Minister Marwan Hamedeh.
Lebanon has the highest mobile usage in the world – more minutes per person than in any other country.
And now Lebanon says Syria wants to get a bite of that apple.
Hamadeh says Syria has pointed its mobile phone masts towards Lebanon, and is selling pre-pay phone cards in shops in Tripoli. Users then log on to a Syrian network with a Syrian SIM card and pay the much cheaper Syrian prices.
Hamadeh says that any shop found selling Syrian pre-pay cards will be immediately shut down.
But I have never found it possible to connect to a Syrian network in Tripoli. On the contrary, along long stretches of the Damascus-Aleppo highway, my mobile switches to the Lebanese networks, costing me more money.
Lebanese phone experts say that Lebanon introduced mobile phone networks long before Syria (one reason was because after the civil war, much of the landline phone infrastructure had been uprooted). So Lebanon pointed its mobile masts towards Syria and boosted the signal, to get Syrian subscribers.
It’s a modern version of Lebanese banks welcoming Syrian customers who cross the border to do their banking.
One fact Hamedeh may have overlooked (if he goes to Tripoli to raid one of these evil shops run by Bashar’s infilitrators, he’ll find that he gets no Syrian mobile signal) is that the shops selling Syrian pre-pay cards may be for Lebanese and Syrian businessmen and travellers who cross the border, just half an hour away.
Hamadeh says that the “act of agression” is costing Lebanon dearly. The two mobile networks are Lebanon’s second biggest industry. Hariri Inc. (otherwise known as the Lebanese Government) gets $4 million every month from the two private companies which run the network. He admits he doesn’t know how much money Lebanon is losing.
If Syria doesn’t comply with Hamadeh’s demand, he has threatened to go to the Arab League.