Israeli cellco Pelephone has struck a preliminary agreement to take a stake in the 3G network of rival Partner Communications Company, but the deal could yet be blocked by regulators, according to Globes Online. The proposed deal would see Pelephone sharing Partner’s W-CDMA/HSDPA infrastructure, and is currently being scrutinised by the Antitrust Authority, which has previously indicated that it is not in favour of 3G network sharing. Pelephone and Partner will wait to negotiate the finer points of the agreement, including price, until approval is received.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Partner rolled out its W-CDMA network in December 2004, a few months after market leader Cellcom. It has since invested substantially in expanding the service. It claimed to be the first 3G operator to provide person-to-person video calling and is also proud of its exclusive content deals allowing it to broadcast major news, sports and entertainment programmes. By the start of 2006 it had 3G coverage of more than 92% of the population, and in March it launched the country’s first HSDPA network. Pelephone is Israel’s only CDMA-based operator and its current 3G offering is based on 1xEV-DO technology. Last month it revealed plans to roll out a HSDPA/HSUPA network, representing an about turn in its CDMA-based services strategy. It won UMTS spectrum in the 2000MHz band in December 2001, but has yet to utilise the frequency to roll out W-CDMA-based services as employed by its rivals. It looked set to leapfrog W-CDMA altogether and move straight to the HSPA upgrade. As Pelephone does not currently operate either GSM or W-CDMA-based networks, the HSPA rollout will necessitate a heavy infrastructure investment, but taking a stake in Partner’s 3G network would reduce costs significantly and speed up the rollout process.