By Khaled Tayeh
RAMALLAH, January 24, 2018 (WAFA) – Many years after the Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories were ed to using the slow but expensive 2G network technology for cellular phones and as the world is in the process of getting the ultra-high speed 5G service, the Palestinian cellular companies have finally been allowed to launch the 3G mobile service in only the West Bank after Israel gave them the permission and frequencies to do that.
Gaza, under Israeli siege since 2006, and its 2 million population, has to wait even more.
Almost a decade ago, talks with the Israeli authorities began in order to allow Palestinians to receive and enjoy the fast 3G mobile service, which Israel and the entire world have been using for many years.
Jawwal and Wataniya, the only two private sector Palestinian cellular phone companies with more than 3 million customers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, have officially started to offer the 3G service to their customers on Tuesday.
The reaction was enthusiastic and fervent, particularly for professionals who needed the high speech 3G service to download or upload text, photos and videos after a decade of using the slow and primitive 2G system.
The 3G, the third generation of cellular network technology, was first introduced to the world in early 2000s, and was made available in Israel around that time. However; Palestinians were denied access to proper equipments and frequencies to have the service available in the Palestinian territories for reasons Israel claimed were security but for Palestinian were to prevent them from competing against their Israeli counterparts.
Ammar Aker, Palestine Telecom Group CEO and a member of Paltel Group‘s Board of Directors, talked to WAFA about the service.
“We aim to give the best service for Palestinians and to be up to the competition with other Palestinian and Israeli companies,” Aker said. “Israeli companies have been offering 3G and 4G services for years, which is why some Palestinians rather buy Israeli SIM cards to enjoy the service.”
“We built more than 1000 stations in about 3 months, which is triple the amount of stations built by other companies. We want our competition to be based on offering the best quality and price for Palestinians. Our main goal is to increase the 3G service customers, who are able to afford the service with its best prices and offers.”
Ever since the service was launched, not many customers showed satisfaction with the price offered by the two Palestinian cellular companies, Jawwal and Wataniya, which they considered was relatively high compared to neighboring countries.
Aker said that the prices aren’t final and will be reviewed soon, promising that more appealing offers will be made to attract the best prices to please more customers.
As for plans regarding offering 4G services in the future, Aker said that this has to be made through dealing with the Israeli authorities in order to be given the proper frequencies and tools to build and establish the service in Palestine, which might take another decade or more.
Currently, the 3G service is only available in the West Bank, and not in the Gaza Strip. Aker hoped that the service will be available in Gaza sometime in 2018, noting that it could be a long process of negotiating with the Israeli authorities in order to be given the permission and right tools to offer the service for Palestinians in Gaza.
“We, and the Ministry of Telecommunications, are trying our best to make the service available in the Gaza Strip as soon as possible,” Aker said.
Shadi Qawasmi, marketing director at Wataniya mobile company, said the company made offers that are appropriate for the customers as much as possible.
He said that the price and quality go along with each other, which is why Wataniya is offering a great quality, with proper services and prices.
He said the company will offer more marketing and promotional campaigns that will provide customers with great quality and a suitable price.
Wataniya is also planning to offer the 3G service as soon as possible in the Gaza Strip.
“It’s very important for us as a Palestinian and a commercial company to offer the service in the Gaza Strip because Palestinians there deserve to enjoy it as well,” said Qawasmi. “We are working very hard with the Ministry of Telecommunications to make the service available in Gaza, hopefully soon.”
But for now, the two Palestinian cellular companies have to satisfy themselves and focus on setting up the 3G service in only the West Bank and compete among each other of which will be able to provide a better and cheaper service in order to win more customers than the other.