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Wed 24 Sep 2008 09:46 AM

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Lebanon to hold mobile number auction

MTC Touch to hold country's first ever auction, numbers include 7088888.

Lebanese mobile operator MTC Touch will hold the first-ever auction for “distinguished” mobile phone numbers and all proceeds will be used to update and expand the existing networks.

Interested buyers must pay $200 to register for the auction, in which easy-to-remember numbers such as 70888888 will be sold, Lebanon's Daily Star reported on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters, Lebanon Telecommunication Minister Jebran Bassil said the auction would take place on Oct. 3 at the Movenpick hotel.

“MTC Touch will also hold another auction on its official website [] on Oct. 8 of this year,” the minister said.

The easy-to-remember mobile numbers used to be sold in the black market for hefty prices.

The telecommunication ministry instructed the two mobile companies, which operate the cellular networks on behalf of the government, to organise 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 value-added tax (VAT).

Sources told the Daily Star that the ministry is looking for ways to modernise 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 modernising 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.

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