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Mobile phone users fear price hikes as telecoms companies announce that as of Friday credit balances will be converted from dollars to lira

Mobile phone users fear price hikes as telecoms companies announce that as of Friday credit balances will be converted from dollars to lira

(Credit: Joseph Eid/AFP)

BEIRUT — Social media users expressed fear of price increases for mobile phone services following announcements Wednesday from the telecommunications companies Alfa and Touch that as of March 4 phone credit balances would be converted from US dollars to Lebanese lira. Touch also announced new prices for its Anghami music subscription, and both Touch and Alfa hiked their prices for sending international SMSs.

Here’s what we know:

    • The companies sent messages to their subscribers on Wednesday announcing the decision to convert mobile phone credit balances from US dollars to Lebanese lira. Neither company, however, specified at what rate this conversion would take place. A Touch employee told L’Orient Today that the dollar-to-lira exchange rate will remain at LL1,514.

    • Fear abounded among subscribers that the decision to switch currencies would inevitably lead to an increase in the cost of services. Mobile telecoms services, charged until now in US dollars, have remained priced at the official lira exchange rate of LL1,514 to the dollar, while the lira now trades at around LL20,000 on the parallel market and the central bank’s Sayrafa currency exchange platform. Telecoms companies have repeatedly warned of their inability to maintain their services at the present tariff rates.

    • “Telecom companies began to convert the balance of subscribers from the $ to Lebanese [lira] at the rate of LL1,514…I mean if you have $100 in your account, it will be LL151,400,” wrote Twitter user Jean-Marie El Bacha, who describes himself as an information security consultant. He added, “if you want for example, a service for $ 10 and the dollar on the exchange rate (is LL20,000) you will pay LL200,000, more than what you used to... This is a robbery once again from the citizens …,” asking "What are you going to do @Najib_Mikati ??” in reference to the country’s prime minister.

    • Another Twitter user, Joud Mouawad, meanwhile questioned why the service was ever priced in dollars. “Basically why was the pricing in dollars?? Do we know? There is no country in the world that doesn’t price services in its national currency. Someone explain to us why the cellular in Lebanon was priced at $.”

    • In a series of text messages, Touch communicated to its subscribers that Anghami bundles would now cost $13 for a 400MB subscription and $33 for a 2GB subscription, while previously 1GB was priced at $3. Both companies’ International SMS prices were also hiked from 10 cents to $1.25 as of Wednesday.

    • “While technology costs should depreciate over time, telecommunications are skyrocketing in #Lebanon. 1 SMS = $1.25 (which used to be 10 cents),” tweeted Sooly Kobayashi.

    • Anghami justified in a press release that for Touch Anghami the dollar-to-lira rate is still at LL1,514 and “all current subscribers will be able to renew the subscriptions at the same old price, the new bundles/prices are for new subscriptions.”

    • Twitter user Hady Osaily wrote, “Anghami's subscription has become $33, I choose to keep listening to the Panet [a website that contains free music albums] for a lifetime rather than ever subscribing again.”


BEIRUT — Social media users expressed fear of price increases for mobile phone services following announcements Wednesday from the telecommunications companies Alfa and Touch that as of March 4 phone credit balances would be converted from US dollars to Lebanese lira. Touch also announced new prices for its Anghami music subscription, and both Touch and Alfa hiked their prices for sending...