RAMALLAH, – Wataniya Mobile Palestine, a member of Ooredoo Group, is expected to start operations in the Gaza Strip this year after an eight-year wait, officials said on Monday, ending 18 years of monopoly by the only other cellular telephone company in Palestine, Jawwal.
Company CEO Durgham Maraee said Wataniya has started work on providing mobile service in the Gaza Strip after a launch and operation in the West Bank since November 2009.
In addition, he said, Wataniya is working on building the 3G mobile service in the West Bank after an agreement was recently reached between the Palestinian Ministry of Telecommunication and the Israeli occupation authorities that would allow the Palestinian company from building the 3G network in the West Bank.
He said technical teams have started to build the transmission towers throughout the Gaza Strip as a prelude to start full operation there within this year.
While Wataniya Mobile Palestine was launched in Ramallah in November 2009 and built a mobile phone network in the West Bank, Israel did not allow it to bring equipment into the besieged Gaza Strip to offer service to the two million people there.
Israel has blockaded the Gaza Strip since Hamas took over power there in 2007. Nothing enters or leaves the Strip without Israeli military approval.
The only other and largest cellular phone operating company, Jawwal, a subsidiary of the larger Palestine Telecommunications (Paltel) Group, has been providing mobile service in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip since its founding in 1999.
Mohammad Mustafa, chairman of Palestine Investment Fund (PIF), the investment arm of the Palestinian Authority with 34 per cent ownership in Wataniya after the largest stakeholder, the Doha-based international Ooredoo Group, said he was looking forward to seeing Wataniya operate in Gaza and build the 3G network in the West Bank.
Israel, which now operates the fourth generation (4G) mobile network, has not allowed the two Palestinian companies to have the frequencies or equipment needed to provide 3G service to their customers in the occupied Palestinian territories until recently when an agreement was reached that would allow Wataniya to build a network in Gaza and both companies to provide 3G service in the West Bank.
Ooredoo CEO Sheikh Saud Al Thani also expressed his delight that Wataniya will finally be able to operate in Gaza, which he expects will have good benefits for his company’s Palestine subsidiary.
Wataniya Mobile Palestine Chairman of the Board Mohammad Abu Ramadan said his company has been working hard to get permission to extend its operation to Gaza.
We were able to overcome all obstacles and now we are very close to operating in Gaza, where he had brought in towers and other technical equipment, he said, adding, and not only that, we are now very close to launch the 3G mobile service in the West Bank.
He said that by entering Gaza, Wataniya is going to end 18 years of monopoly of a market of two million people, in reference to its competitor Jawwal.
Source: Palestinian News & Info Agency