French businessman Patrick Drahi, who agreed to purchase Israeli iDEN operator MIRS Communications in December 2009, has reportedly told the Ministry of Communications (MoC) that he hopes to begin construction of a new mobile network immediately. According to Globes Online, Drahi has called on the regulator to expedite the approval procedures, claiming that if permits are received immediately, alongside permits for the necessary frequencies, the new infrastructure could be constructed by the end of 2010.
In related news the MoC has informed Drahi and current MIRS owner Motorola Israel that it requires further information about the cellco’s current debt to the state. The ministry has said that, while it is unable to add a clause making its approval of the MIRS sale contingent on settlement of the debt, it will take measures to ensure payment, irrespective of which party assumes the liability on completion of the sale. The debt itself is a matter of debate between the government and Motorola, with the arrears stemming from MIRS’ licence, which was never paid in full; on paper the debt is believed to total approximately ILS150 million (USD40.5 million).
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in December 2009 it was announced that Motorola had agreed to sell MIRS to Drahi, who bid approximately USD170 million through Cool Holdings for full ownership of the trunking operator.