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Imogen Lambert

Good reception: Palestinian 3G and the economic peace plan

Signs in Ramallah tell Obama not to get his hopes up for mobile internet [Twitter]

Date of publication: 23 November, 2015

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Analysis: Israel and Palestine have come to an agreement on building a 3G mobile network, in what may be part of a peace quartet initiative.
Palestinian Twitterers, Facebookers, YouTubers, WhatsAppers and all other mobile phone users could soon have access to 3G high-speed data services after a deal was signed by Israeli Major-General Yoav Mordechai and Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh.

West Bankers have been restricted to slow 2G networks, despite Israeli carriers offering 3G services, as, under interim peace agreements, Israel controls cellular networks in the territories occupied by its military since 1967.

The 3G technology will be available within three months, a Palestinian Authority spokesman told the Bethlehem-based Ma'an News Agency.

Israel has withheld granting Palestinians 3G, possibly because the nature network makes it more difficult for Israeli security to monitor communications. The announcement came as Israel accused Palestinians of "inciting violence" on social media and YouTube.

However, the lack of 3G also inhibits the Palestinian economy. The deal was termed a "landmark" for start-up business development.
     If the deal goes ahead, it will likely profit Jawwal and Wataniya, the two mobile phone companies operating in the West Bank


Earlier this year, signs in Ramallah welcoming US president Obama pointed out there was no 3G in Palestine. The posters were later criticised by some Palestinian activists who pointed out that the Palestinian cause was bigger than access to high-speed mobile services.  

If the deal goes ahead, it will likely profit Jawwal and Wataniya, the two mobile phone companies operating in the West Bank, with Jawwal having 80 percent of the market share.

The quartet


The Quartet's plan for peace, which has been described as predominantly economic in nature, includes plans to develop the communications and ICT sector, which involve establishing 3G and 4G access in Palestinian territories.

The quartet's plan estimated that in three years, a stronger telecommunications sector could be worth around $560-680 million dollars over a period of three years.

Both Jawwal and Wataniya have had connections to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Quartet's peace envoy; it was previously reported that Wataniya was owned by Q-tel (now Ooredoo), which was a major client of JP Morgan - also reported to be one of Blair's private consultancy clients.

In 2007, Blair mounted a political lobbying campaign to rescue the then-struggling business. Wataniya almost collapsed before even launching, as Israel refused to release the frequencies it needed to operate. Blair's lobbying of Tel Aviv was successful and Wataniya became a major player in the communications sector in Palestine.
     Blair's lobbying of Tel Aviv was successful and Wataniya became a major player in the communications sector


Jawwal is a subsidiary of the Palestine Telecommunications Co. (Paltel), a private company that oversees several telecommunications and internet providers in the Palestinian territories, including al-Etisalat, Hadara and Jawwal.

Its chairperson is Sabih al-Masri, cousin of billionaire Munib al-Masri, who has backed the quartet's plans and has been known to frequently meets with senior Washington officials, including US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The Jawwal offices in Gaza were temporily closed down by Hamas earlier this year for failing to pay their taxes to the local authority, paying taxes only to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Tony Blair left his position as peace envoy for the quartet, but retains an interest in the Palestinian situation. Last month he visited Jerusalem, where he advocated a more "regional approach".

This latest deal means that Palestine is one of the final places in the world to gain access to 3G. The agreement will not yet enable 4G service for Palestinians, nor will it cover the Gaza Strip. 

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