Hutchison Whampoa-owned Partner Communications has signed a USD93 million contract with Canadian equipment supplier Nortel Networks to supply equipment for Israel’s first 3G network. Partner hopes that the new network will boost voice and data capacity significantly, providing services such as person-to-person video calls to create new sources of revenue. It expects to begin deployment by the end of 2003 in the greater Tel Aviv area, expanding coverage nationwide by the end of the following year. 3G services will be provided under the 3 banner. The agreement marks Nortel’s first deal with the Hutchison Whampoa group; Ericsson and Nokia supplied Partner’s GSM network in 1999.
Partner Communications launched its GSM network in October 1998 under the Orange brand name, although it did not begin commercial operations until the following January, when it became Israel’s first GSM operator. The company enjoyed immediate success, signing up 355,000 subscribers in its first eleven months of operation and capturing a market share of 13%. It has since grown to become the second largest player in the Israeli market, boasting a share of 29.08% at the end of 2002, and a customer base of 1.84 million. In a bid to keep up with increasing competition in the Israeli wireless sector – from the likes of Pelephone, Cellcom and MIRS – Partner launched a GPRS service in September 2002.