A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

more on platinum dialing: paying for a 70?

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on September 28, 2008

Those of you who were intrigued by my post about Lebanon’s introduction of “platinum numbers” might be interested to know what digits are available at next Friday’s auction. Here’s a list, courtesy of last Tuesday’s Daily Star:

More information about the auction can also be found on the website of MTC Touch, one of Lebanon’s two mobile phone carriers. MTC Touch seems to be sponsoring this auction, meaning that the numbers will all be required to subscribe with MTC. (The charges and services for MTC and Alfa are almost exactly the same, thanks to the government’s stifling of any attempt at market competition, but it is still odd to me that the numbers would not be divided between the two companies.)

In my opinion – and I must admit that I’m not really one for numbers – these numbers are fine, but I wouldn’t pay $200 just for the privilege to bid on them. And what mature government decides that 696969 is an appropriate set of digits for a mobile phone? I hope that number goes to some person with international business or political dealings, whose overseas contacts’ laughter will soon shame him (I’m guessing) into buying a more generic line.

I noticed something else about all of these numbers, which the Lebanese phone users among my readers will also have noticed. They all begin with “70”.

Historically, all Lebanese mobile numbers began with the prefix 03. When the Telecommunications Ministry introduced “70” in 2005 (?), the new prefix was greeted as warmly as the 646 in Manhattan. 212 was for New Yorkers; 646 was for arrivistes.

When I arrived in Beirut in early 2006, I didn’t realize that there were two prefixes, and I bought a card with a 70. What is this number? friends would complain, looking peeved. Do you mean 03 70 xx xx? others would ask. No no – I want your Lebanese mobile, not your foreign one, some people said.

I’m a snob. And a fast learner. So I exchanged my number for a 03 and we were all much happier.

But I’m guessing that after another two years, the 03s are really almost used up. And 70 has won a grudging acceptance from Lebanese dialers – or at least it has become normalized.

But the idea that people might actually consider 70 numbers “pretty” – and be willing to pay a premium for them! – still boggles my mind a bit.

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