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MTC Touch to auction off 'distinguished' mobile phone numbers

MTC Touch, one of two mobile operators in Lebanon, intends to hold the first-ever auction for "distinguished" cellular numbers and all of the proceeds will be used to update and expand the existing networks, Telecommunication Minister Jebran Bassil said on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters, Bassil said that the auction will take place on October 3 at the Movenpick hotel.

"MTC Touch will also hold another auction on its official Web site (mtctouch.com.lb) on October 8 of this year," the minister said.

The easy-to-remember cellular numbers, such as 70888888, used to be sold in the black market for hefty prices.

Interested buyers must pay $200 to register for the auction, according to MTC Touch.

The Telecommunication Ministry instructed the two mobile companies, which operate the cellular networks on behalf of the government, to organize the sale of the privileged numbers because in many cases they end up on the black market.

"We will use all additional revenues from the auction to improve and expand the existing cellular networks," Bassil said.

Currently, Lebanon has less than 1.2 million cellular subscribers, but the revenues from the sector are the second-largest source of income for the government after the Value-Added Tax.

Sources told The Daily Star that the ministry is looking for ways to modernize and expand the capacity of the cellular networks in order to increase the number of subscribers and then reduce the rates.

They added that expanding and modernizing the networks would increase the value of the cellular lines and allow the government to get a better price from the privatization of the mobile companies.

Nadim Khater, the commercial director of MTC Touch, expects a big turn out in the first auction. "We expect lot of people to buy the premium numbers during the auction and through the Internet based on studies conducted by our company," Khater said. He added that some clients will buy these numbers regardless of the prices.

Beirut 24-09-2008
Redaction
The Daily Star



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