Cellcom, Israel’s largest wireless operator in terms of subscribers, has revealed that it will publish a tender for the supply and installation of equipment for its 3G network sometime in the next two months. The operator said that it expects to have signed a contract by the end of June 2004 although it has not revealed a timetable for the rollout of the network, claiming that it first needs to examine market conditions. Cellcom has also announced plans to upgrade its existing GSM network with enhanced data rates to enable it to roll out EDGE technology. The upgrade, which will be undertaken by Nokia, is expected to take place before the end of 2003, although the new network will not be operational until early 2004. In addition to the expansion of its cellular services, Cellcom has said it plans to begin competing in the international fixed line market, although this is subject to the terms dictated by the government. It hopes to become a serious competitor to former monopoly Bezeq.
Initially offering wireless services over its TDMA network, Cellcom won its 3G licence in February 2001, at which time the government also awarded concessions to its rivals Partner Communications and Pelephone. The country’s fourth operator MIRS was not awarded a licence. At the same date the cellco was awarded 1800MHz spectrum enabled it to launch GSM services and in early 2002 Nokia built out the new network as part of a USD500 million deal. By the end of that year Cellcom could claim 400,000 GSM subscribers, a figure which had risen to around 600,000 by the following June. It plans to increase this to 700,000 by the end of this year. At the end of 2002 Cellcom claimed a market share of 39.09%, with its competitors Partner Communications taking 29.08%, Pelephone holding 27.87% and MIRS claiming 3.96%.