The Israeli Ministry of Communications (MoC) has awarded the country’s first mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) licence, Reuters reports. Telecom 365, which is a subsidiary of the Hamashbir retail group, was named as the recipient of the concession, and under existing regulations the company now has six months in which to agree fees with one of the country’s mobile network operators; if after that time no agreement has been reached the MoC will step in to help finalise a deal. Once Telecom 365 has been able to agree financial terms with one of the wireless sector’s current players it will then have a further six months to prepare its network for commercial operations. Telecom 365 said it intends to move forward quickly, with Oded Birger, the would-be virtual operator’s CEO, noting: ‘We will work vigorously to set up the network and estimate we will be able to supply customers, especially members of our Club 365, with quality communications services towards the end of 2011.’
The development follows years of haggling over the introduction of MVNOs to the Israeli wireless sector. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in August 2008 the MoC announced that it would implement the recommendations made by the Gronau Committee five months earlier, but it was not until November 2009 that it published its final regulations governing the introduction of MVNOs. The regulator at that date revealed that it would forbid existing wireless carriers from becoming MVNOs, either directly or via associated companies, although it said it will allow companies connected to the wireless carriers, such as NetVision, to acquire MVNO licences on the proviso that they can demonstrate that their business has declined substantially and only entering the wireless sector can improve their fortunes.