July 28, 2013
Palestinians Suffer in Cell Phone Dark Ages — and Point Finger of Blame at Israel
The Jewish Daily Forward on how Isreal has frozen the Palestinian telecommunications sector in a bygone era technologically.
For the past seven years, Israel has refused to grant the Palestinian Authority electromagnetic spectrum for 3G service that it exclusively controls despite provisions in the 1993 Oslo Accords that appear to obligate Israel to provide this. The restriction has relegated the Palestinians to 2G, even as Israel prepares to launch 4G for its own citizens.
Israel’s Ministry of Communication says it cannot at present grant any spectrum to the Palestinians, because none is available. As soon as such frequencies will be available, “they will be assigned… to the Palestinians,” said Yechiel Shabi, spokesman for the ministry.
But enabling Palestinian 3G seems far from a priority for Israel. In 2011, the ministry granted frequency spectrum to two Israeli companies, Golan Telecom and Hot Mobile, rather than to the Palestinian firms, and a year later, as those two companies launched 3G, the ministry told the Palestinian firms that no frequencies were left; they would have to rent spectrum from Israeli firms. The Israeli veto on Palestinian firms seeking to offer 3G leaves the Palestinian companies far behind even the standards of the region: Algeria and Iraq are the only other two countries in the Middle East to lack 3G. Palestinians see Israel’s policies on the frequencies as reflecting a larger Israeli approach that stunts their economic development.
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