Despite having still to receive the full allocation of spectrum it has been promised, Wataniya Palestine has announced that it has launched commercial services in the West Bank, Reuters reports. According to Mohammad Mustafa, head of Wataniya Palestine’s board, the operator has decided to offer services using just 3.8MHz of frequencies – it had previously been agreed on with the Israeli Ministry of Communication (MoC) that 4.8MHz would be released – but the executive said that former UK prime minister Tony Blair, acting as an envoy for the Quartet on the Middle East, has promised that the remaining frequencies will be forthcoming to Wataniya. Commenting on the development, Blair said the launch would ‘provide a welcome boost to the Palestinian Authority and the government’s work to attract Arab and international investment.’
The release of frequencies by the MoC has been a protracted affair; according to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the Israeli authorities and Wataniya signed an in-principle agreement related to spectrum allocation back in 2007. The matter appeared to come to a head in August 2009, when Wataniya set a deadline for the release of the frequencies of 15 September 2009, just one month before it had originally hoped to finally launch commercial services.
Wataniya says it has spent approximately USD270 million on the deployment of its network infrastructure, and according to Mustafa around 40,000 subscribers have already signed up to the service following a promotional campaign launched by the operator a month ago.