There are two operators in Lebanon:
- Touch (formerly MTC) managed by Zain
- Alfa managed by Orascom
Both of them are owned by the state, but each managed by a foreign telecom company. 2G/GSM is on 900 MHz up to EDGE, 3G on 2100 MHz up to HSPA+ and 4G/LTE has started on both networks on 1800 MHz (Band 3) in 2013. During 2016 both Touch and Alfa implemented substantial 4G/LTE upgrades and expansions. In 2017 there was 85% 4G/LTE coverage of population across most parts of Lebanon. Service quality is quite good, fast and reliable.
In 2018/19 the Lebanese government introduced a whitelist IMEI registration to combat tax evasion. This makes it very hard to use a local SIM card for more than 90 days. All visitors for less than 90 days using a local SIM card and all roaming travellers are not affected. In line with other countries that have adopted a similar policy like Turkey or Azerbaijan we greylist this country from now on.
Don't be astonished, that Lebanon charges the highest prices in the region which - because of state regulations - remain pretty similar between the two operators, though Alfa is a bit cheaper. In 2016 the government urged them to lower prices and both operators lowered some rates. In 2017 the Minister of Telecommunications announced new prices for activating certain mobile SIM cards. A basic prepaid SIM card on either Touch or Alfa networks can now be bought for $3 (plus 10% tax) – which includes $3 initial phone credit – compared to the previous start-up cost of up to $25.
The currency in Lebanon is the Lebanese pound (LBP) which is pegged to the US$: 1 US$ = 1507.5 LBP. That's why prices are given in US$. All prices below are subject to a 10% state tax.
A passport is required to purchase a SIM card in one of the shops of the operators. You may be called by the operator to verify your identity.
IMEI Registration (from 2018)
In summer 2018 the ministry of telecommunication brought back the mandatory IMEI registration as an attempt to keep dealers from smuggling mobile phones into the country without paying any customs duty. In principle, buyers are not required to do anything when buying a legal phone from the local market, but they will of course have to pay the due tax when getting a phone from abroad. This affects all devices brought in the country using a local SIM card, not a roaming card.
You are given a grace period of 90 days to register and tax your device. For this period you are safe to use a local SIM card. If you stay longer, you will need to pay import taxes for your handset. As soon as you replace your SIM card with a Lebanese one on your international phone, you would receive an SMS from the Ministry of Telecommunications (MOT) giving you a grace time of 90 days to pay for the fees (which are 15-16% of the phone’s original price on the market), or else the cell phone would be blocked from the network and you would not be able to use it.
If ever you are on vacation and and use Lebanese SIM card, you will be asked to pay and given a period of 90 days, which you can avoid, if you leave the country earlier. However, if you return after this period, it is yet unknown, whether you will have to count 90 new days, or you would be already blocked. Visitors who stay for longer are recommended to use a tourist SIM card (see below) as these will help you bypass the networks and you won’t be charged because you’re a tourist giving you access for one year.
Touch (formerly MTC)
Touch, previously called MTC, is state-owned, but managed by the Kuwaiti Zain group. It's the leading provider in Lebanon with about 2/3 of the customer base and the best coverage in 2G and 3G. 4G/LTE has been spead to over 85% of the population in 2017: 3G 4G coverage-map
Prepaid starter packs are sold in their shops: (store-locator). The new state set price is $3 for a prepaid SIM plus 10% tax including the same $3 balance valid for 5 days. The default plan is called "magic". For data-only they sell a prepaid SIM for $19 (plus tax) with the same credit preloaded, but you can only add the same packages below.
You can switch between different prepaid plans (Start, Smart, Super and Magic) during the line’s active period for free. Simply text “Start”, “Smart”, “Super” or “magic” to 1144 to do so. But this will only lower your call fees by adding a monthly base rate.
To recharge buy a voucher and enter the code like this: *200*<voucher PIN>#. To check credit and validity enter *220#. Be aware that every recharge value gives only a limited validity: from $ 11.36 for 7 days + 5 days grace time to $ 231 for one year of validity.
Data feature packages
These packages can be added to all plans for data:
- daily package: 50 MB for 24 hours: $1. Activation: text “DD” to 1188
- 2-days package: 200 MB for 48 hours: $2. Activation: text "DD2" to 1188
- 4-days package: 700 MB for 4 days: $4. Activation: text "DD4" to 1188
- weekly package: 1 GB for 7 days: $7. Activation: text "WD" to 1188
To check your remaining MBs and time of deactivation, dial *230#. When subscribed to the Daily Data bundle, you can still activate any WhatsApp, or monthly data bundle simultaneously. Active data plans on the line will be consumed successively: First the WhatsApp bundle followed by the Daily Data bundle, and then 3G/4G plan already subscribed to on the line. The daily bundle is not auto-renewed: Once the validity period is reached, it will be automatically deactivated. The Daily Data bundle can be activated on Magic base plans only.
- monthly packs on "4.5G" that means 4G/LTE is now included:
|500 MB||$ 10||$ 0.1 / MB||HS1|
|1.75 GB||$ 19||$ 0.08 / MB||HS2|
|6 GB||$ 26||$ 0.07 / MB||HS3|
|10 GB||$ 33||HS4|
|20 GB||$ 39||$ 0.06 / MB||HS5|
|30 GB||$ 49||$ 0.05 / MB||HS6|
|40 GB||$ 59||HS7|
|60 GB||$ 69||HS8|
|100 GB||$ 109||HS9|
All prices are subject to 10% tax. To check your remaining MBs, dial *220#. To subscribe, text code to 1188.
For social media you have these choices:
- WhatsApp bundle: all voice SIMs can be added by these two bundles:
- 200 MB for $4 per month. Activation by texting "WA" to 1100.
- 300 MB for $6 per month. Activation by texting "WA2" to 1100.
- Social Media bundle: for Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter and Snapchat you can add a 300 MB bundle for $7 by texting "S" to 1100.
Both bundles auto-renew. To stop text "DWA" for the WhatsApp bundle and "DS" for the Social Media Bundle to 1100.
In 2018 Touch started to sell a tourist SIM called Visitor Line. It's available at Beirut International Airport, Touch service centers and Touch PoPs. It's valid for 365 days with 14 days active bundle validity. The validity of the line is extended to one year every time the visitor bundle is activated. The bundle is not auto-renewed, once the validity period is reached, it will be automatically deactivated.
To benefit from the Visitor line, you will need a valid passport with an entry stamp not older than 3 months. It contains 10 GB of data, 100 local and international minutes, 100 local and international SMS for 14 days at $ 39. You can only reload the same package again for the same price to extend in volume or time. To renew the bundle, send 'VB' to 1100 or use Touch mobile app. The Visitor line can be topped up with regular Touch reloads. To check your account balance, bundle details and validity dial *220# or use their app.
- APN: touch
- Website in English: http://www.touch.com.lb
Alfa is state-owned too, but this operator is managed by Egypt-based Orascom Telecom. It calls itself "the leading mobile provider in Lebanon" but in fact is the smaller of the two operators with only 1/3 of all customers.
Yet it's coverage is quite on par: coverage map and they offer a few more options than the market leader.
Prepaid starter packs are sold in their shops and franchise: (store locator). A new Alfa prepaid card is now given out for $3 (tax incl.) with the same credit valid for 5 days. For data-only their Prepaid Mobile Broadband data SIM card comes for $17 with the same credit available in your account balance. For both products the same data bundles can be added.
Recharge cards are sold from $3.64 to $68.18 (tax incl.) giving 13 to 95 days of validity. To top-up scratch off the code and enter *14*<recharge code>#. Check balance by *111#.
The Alfa prepaid SIM doesn't have data from the start. You can activated PAYG data for $ 0.15 per MB by texing PAYG to 1515 and deactivate it by DPAYG. That's what you should do when you buy a data bundle.
Data feature packages
In 2017 they released weekly data bundles for the first time:
- 500 MB for a week: $ 5, activation: WBB500
- 1.5 GB for a week: $ 7, activation: WBB1.5
- 5 GB for a week: $ 15, activation: WBB5
Later they have introduced these three data boosters:
- 50 MB until next day midnight: $ 1, activation: D1
- 600 MB for three days: $ 3, activation: D2
- Unlimited data for two hours: $ 5, activation: D5
Activation is by *111# or texting the code to 1050.
You can also add these recently discounted monthly packages for data:
|500 MB||$ 10||$ 0.1 / MB||MI500|
|1.5 GB||$ 17||$ 0.08 / MB||MI1.5|
|5 GB||$ 23||$ 0.07 / MB||MI5|
|10 GB||$ 30||MI10|
|20 GB||$ 39||$ 0.06 / MB||MI20|
|30 GB||$ 47||$ 0.05 / MB||MI30|
|40 GB||$ 59||MI40|
|60 GB||$ 69||MI60|
|70 GB||$ 79||MI70|
|100 GB||$ 107||$ 0.04 / MB||MI100|
|200 GB||$ 194||MI200|
- Night offer (1am-6am) 5 GB for 30 nights: $ 5, activation: ND5; deactivation: DND5
- What's App: 300 MB for 30 days: $ 5, activation: WA300
Activation of all bundles is by typing *111# or text a SMS to 1050 with the code. All prices are subject to a 10% state tax. For monthly bundles: To modify your current bundle (activated on the bundle renewal date), send a SMS with "MMI#" to 1050. To instantly renew your current bundle once your MBs are consumed, send a SMS with "RMI" to 1050. To instantly renew to another bundle once your MBs are consumed, send a SMS with "RMI#" to 1050.
U-Share: With all 10 GB bundles or higher, users can share the bundle for free with up to 3 secondary account users. You need to subscribe the primary and secondary users online to an account. This is free for the primary user and for $2 for all secondary users. You can also send a monthly data bundle as a gift to another user by sending an SMS to 1050 enclosing <8 digits Alfa number>MI<volume>, example: XXXXXXXXMI1.5
- APN: alfa
- Website in English: http://www.alfa.com.lb