PNA to penalise sellers of Israeli SIMs

29 Apr 2010

The Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has put forward measures aimed at curbing Palestinians’ use of mobile voice services sold by Israeli network operators in the West Bank, Reuters reports. Telecommunications minister Mashour Abu Daqqa said of the government’s plans: ‘Any store or place or company or dealer caught (selling Israeli SIM cards) will be prosecuted,’ amid claims that domestic operators lose out on revenue worth around USD100 million each year. According to the Ministry of Telecom and Information Technology (MTIT) Israel’s four mobile network operators – Cellcom, Pelephone, Partner Communications and MIRS Communications – between them account for around 12% of the wireless sector in Palestinian Territories, despite not paying licence fees or taxes to the PNA. Abu Daqqa also claimed that one reason for the popularity of Israeli SIM cards was the offer of third-generation services; the PNA has called on the Israeli authorities to release frequencies that would allow its domestic cellcos to launch similar services, but this has yet to meet with any positive response.

The Israeli Infrastructure Minister, Uzi Landau, has claimed though that the move goes against the spirit of the two regions seeking a peaceful co-existence, noting: ‘If this would be just a limited, isolated decision, fine, ok, then they decided to do this. But … this simply means that they are not looking for peace, that they are looking to keep tension and getting themselves more and more disconnected from us and from possible negotiations towards a solution.’ Indeed, a further issue is that some Palestinians have no choice but to use Israeli networks as a result of domestic cellcos’ difficulties in the deployment of base stations in the 60% of West Bank territory under Israeli military control.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, there are currently two Palestinian cellcos, Palestine Cellular Telecommunications Company (Palcel) and Wataniya Palestine, the latter of which launched commercial services in November 2009.