Despite its many problems, Lebanon has always seen itself as a technology hub where movers and shakers from the entire MENA region gather to change the world and make it a better place. That’s why the country has always been willing to spend money on its telecommunications infrastructure in order to support the needs of its nearly 5 million mobile users.
Currently, Lebanon is preparing to upgrade its infrastructure to 5G, which promises greater transmission speeds, lower latency, and much larger capacity. Officials, as well as businesses and their employees, have realized that the wheels of the Lebanese economy (in a world where Covid-19 is still a major threat) can only keep on turning if there is a modern telecommunications infrastructure in place, ready to enable remote working arrangements.
But what is the current state of 5G in Lebanon? Is it almost ready to be deployed country-wide, or will it still take several years for people living in Lebanon to see the 5G icon on their mobile devices? The answer to these questions may surprise you.
Major Lebanese Telcos Are Preparing For A 5G Future
Near the end of 2018, Touch, one of the two mobile telephony and data operators in Lebanon, partnered with Huawei to perform the first commercial 5G trial in the nation. The trial took place at the Grand Serail in Beirut under the patronage of the Prime Minister Designate Saad Hariri.
“At the Ministry of Telecommunications, we are determined to modernize the existing infrastructure to accommodate the latest technology advancements,” addressed the Caretaker Minister of Telecommunication Jamal Jarrah the audience, which included ministers, ambassadors, academics, and economy experts. “We began to deploy fiber optics across Lebanon, to benefit the Lebanese citizens with modern technology, in addition to expanding mobile networks to keep up with developments,” he added.
According to Touch Chief Executive Officer Emre Gurkan, the trial was a momentous milestone for the operator, moving it one step closer to achieving its long-term goal of improving the quality of life for everyone in Lebanon. Huawei was also pleased with the results of the trial, stating that the collaboration with Touch was another example of how the company is committed to working with local partners to provide tailored solutions that meet local requirements.
Not even a year after Touch and Huawei joined forces to perform the first commercial 5G trial in Lebanon, the other major operator in the country, Alfa, performed a live 5G trial at Telecom Review Leaders’ Summit Beirut, where it showcased, in partnership with Nokia and Ericsson, what its data network is capable of when combined with the latest technologies and devices.
Alfa called the live trail “the final step to 5G in Lebanon” and said that it’s ready to go live with the technology later the same year. “We are only steps away from the official 5G launch. We have established official partnerships for this pioneering 5G network deployment since 2017 with our network suppliers which are of the top worldwide,” said Marwan Hayek, the Chief Executive Officer of Alfa, during an exclusive interview with Telecom Review.
First 5G Networks Available In Lebanon
In September 2019, Touch issued a press release, announcing the launch of the country’s first 5G mobile site. In the press release, the operator claimed that it had been able to achieve data speeds of up to 1.4 Gbps at the site, with a latency of less than just 6 ms.
“Last year, we officially conducted Lebanon’s first commercial 5G trial and today we are proud to be the first mobile operator to launch the first 5G site in Lebanon, a crucial step that will soon allow us to offer the most innovative products and services to our customers in consumer, business, IoT, and smart cities sectors,” said Touch CEO Emre Gurkan.
The only problem is that the mobile site is located at the operator’s headquarters in downtown Beirut, where it’s used exclusively for internal testing and technical demonstrations. Regular Touch customers who would like to experience the benefits of 5G are out of luck, and it’s not certain for how long.
The good news is that people living in Lebanon don’t have to wait for Touch or Alfa to finally make 5G publicly available because they can simply travel to Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport and connect to its 5G fixed wireless service, which Ogero, the fixed infrastructure operator in Lebanon, launched under the patronage of the President of the Council of Ministers Mr. Saad Hariri.
“Beirut’s airport is the first in the region to provide 5G service for its passengers,” said Minister of Telecommunications Mohammed Choucair. “We thank the General Manager of Ogero and the Middle East Airlines. We hope to see an improvement not only at the airport but throughout Lebanon,” he added as he announced the news from the airport.
The launch of the 5G fixed wireless service at the airport was met with mixed reactions, with many people pointing out that the country has other things to spend money on, many of which are more important than 5G service for passengers.
Does Lebanon Even Need 5G?
The Lebanese government sees technology as one of the keys to unlocking a more prosperous future, and it believes that 5G can help foster a digital ecosystem in the country and attract successful businesses. Unsurprisingly, not everyone shares the same viewpoint, but the fact remains that there’s a growing body of research supporting the position of the Lebanese government.
For example, the GSM Association, an industry organization that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide, published a study on the socio-economic benefits of 5G services, which states that the mmWave spectrum alone (one radio frequency spectrum used to provision 5G services) may generate $15.4 billion in the MENA region and contribute 1.1 percent of GDP growth.
The study also mentions several less quantifiable benefits of 5G, including improved health & longer lifespan, increase independence & autonomy, reduced pollution, increased access to education, increased access to healthcare, improved public safety/emergency response, and shorter commute times.
Clearly, 5G is an important enabler of growth that can contribute significantly to the country’s economic activity, even if there are many other areas of potential improvement the Lebanese government can focus on. By embracing 5G as early as possible, Lebanon can maintain its status of a regional innovation hub and further bolster its digital startup ecosystem, giving the country’s brightest minds one more reason to stay.
Top 5 Websites To Download Free Stock Photos
It doesn’t matter if you’re writing an online article, putting together a report, or developing an innovative app — you need captivating visuals to engage your target audience. While there’s no shortage of websites with stock photos, most suffer from the same problems: their prices are too high, the photos are cheesy, and you need to create a user account and agree to lengthy terms of service just to use the website. In this article, we present the top 5 websites you can use to download free stock photos from talented photographers and graphics designers. We highly recommend you check out and bookmark all 5 of these websites since each contains a different collection of free stock photos.
#1 – Pixabay
Pixabay is arguably the most popular website that allows users to download free stock photos without any hoops to jump through. The site is available in 26 languages, and it’s estimated to offer over 1.8 million high-quality photos, illustrations, vectors, videos, and even music!
To download a free stock photo from Pixabay, all you need to do is enter a keyword in the prominent search bar, choose the best result, and click the “Free Download” button. Thanks to the Pixabay license, all photos are free for commercial use, and no attribution is required.
The only downside is that the best stock photos on the site are usually sponsored results from iStock, a premium stock photography provider owned by Getty Images. To download iStock photos, you need to purchase credits or get a monthly subscription.
#2 – Life Of Pix
Life of Pix is more than a free provider of stock photos. It’s a booming community of photographers from around the world, who are on the site to showcase their best pictures. Each week, Life of Pix makes one photographer the “Photographer of the Week” and highlights the person’s top 10 photos on its social networks and website.
The photographer receives recognition, and Life of Pix users get to download free stock photos with heart and soul. Not too long ago, Life of Pix partnered with Adobe Stock, allowing Adobe to advertise its premium stock photos on its site. The good news is that Adobe Stock photos are clearly distinguishable from original Life of Pix content, so you can easily ignore them if you’re not interested in their content.
#3 – Stockvault
Offering over 130,000 free stock photos, textures, backgrounds, and graphics, Stockvault may not have the biggest collection of stock images, but you would be hard-pressed to stumble upon any low-quality images that you would be embarrassed to use for your project. That’s because all of Stockvault’s content is hand-picked by its staff, who always make sure to include topical images as well as evergreen content.
We really like how Stockvault organizes thematically similar stock photos and graphics into image collections, such as education, medical, flowers, protests, beach holiday, or business concepts. These collections make it incredibly easy to find all the stock photos you need with a few simple clicks.
#4 – Unsplash
Unsplash is the product of over 200,000 photographers from around the world sharing their best images and offering them under the Unsplash license. According to this license, all photos can be downloaded and used for free for both commercial and non-commercial purposes, and there’s no need to attribute the original photographer. However, photos can’t be sold without significant modification or offered on a different stock photography website.
We recommend Unsplash to those who are looking for contemporary photos that don’t look tacky or staged. Just keep in mind that some photos on Unsplash are sponsored and created to advertise a certain product or service in a subtle manner.
#5 – Pexels
Launched in 2014, Pexels is yet another website where you can download free stock photos of people, places, animals, events, and more. All photos on the site are free to use, and users are not required to attribute the photographer or the site itself. What’s more, you can even modify photos downloaded from Pexels without running into any licensing issues.
When browsing Pexels, make sure to click the Explore button to discover popular collections of free stock photos, trending photography topics, and an interesting photographer leaderboard showing which users have uploaded the most viewed photos.
Which of these websites do you like the most? Do you know any other websites offering free high-quality stock images that you can recommend? Make sure to post them in the comments below!