Jawwal contracts Alcatel for network expansion

4 Jan 2005

Palestine Cellular Telecommunications Company (Palcell), which operates GSM services under the banner Jawwal, has signed a multi-million dollar contract with French equipment supplier Alcatel to replace part of its GSM network infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. Under the terms of the deal, the value of which has not been disclosed, Alcatel will supply, install, commission and integrate its multi-standard GSM/GPRS/EDGE/W-CDMA radio access solution, allowing for the seamless upgrade of the existing network. Alcatel already provides equipment for fixed line incumbent and Jawwal’s parent Palestine Telecommunications Company (Paltel), and the new contract gives it a foothold in the area’s mobile market, as well as enforcing its position in the Middle East.

Jawwal has not had an easy ride since its launch in August 1999, at first finding it hard to attract Palestinian subscribers already connected to Israeli networks. In 2001, however, it launched a campaign offering deals on subscriptions and special incentives for those switching to its services, which proved highly successful; 60% of those using Israeli networks had signed up with Jawwal before the end of the year. It is still faced with a challenge from the Israeli operators, however, with Israel determined to prevent expansion of the Palestinian network in order to enable its cellular operators to benefit from pent-up demand in the occupied territories. In November 2001 Paltel announced plans to sue leading Israeli mobile operators Pelephone and Cellcom for allegedly operating illegally in Palestinian areas. Paltel said the action was not politically motivated but merely an attempt to recover lost revenues; it filed for USD435 million in damages. Paltel maintains that its cellular subsidiary was guaranteed a five-year period of exclusivity and that Pelephone and Cellcom were breaking regulations set out by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) by offering services in the West Bank and Gaza. Later that year it also accused Pelephone and Cellcom of blocking calls to their networks from Jawwal customers, although the Palestinian operator eventually solved this problem by signing a roaming agreement with Israel’s third mobile operator and fellow GSM licensee Partner Communications.

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