The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee has approved the nationwide inland roaming element of under-discussion telecoms reforms, paving the way for a new mobile network operator, Globes Online reports. Commenting on the development, Moshe Kahlon, the country’s communications minister, said: ‘This removes a major barrier. If the companies object, it’s only in order to prevent competition. The companies will be paid, so they know that this is a barrier to competition … A carrier with an infrastructure needs about 2,000 antennas. We aim to achieve joint sites, but at the moment, under the present circumstances, we want to move forward on roaming so that companies can use existing antennas, for reasons of environmental protection, aesthetics, and of course to enable a new operator to enter the market.’
Alongside the approval itself, the Committee also ruled that pricing for roaming will be set at ILS0.07 (USD0.012) per minute, in line with reduced interconnection rates which are due to enter into force from the start of 2011, while the cost for data communications will be ‘0.65% of the connectivity price’.
Meanwhile, Yehiel Ben-Shoshan, the head of a group of investors looking to enter the Israeli wireless sector, has claimed that the proposals are unsuitable, pointing to a clause in the legislation that stipulates new carriers must have deployed network infrastructure covering 10% of the population. Arguing that the construction of antennas in Israel was ‘impossible’, he added: ‘As things stand now, the tender appears to be tailored for MIRS Communications.’ Antitrust Authority official Roee Rosenberg however claimed that the decision to require low-level network deployment prior to allowing operators to roam was correct, stating: ‘We think that 10% deployment is an important mechanism to see the seriousness of the new candidates … They want to own frequencies, and to have an option not to fully deploy. Therefore, the attempt to lower the entry barrier is incorrect, and prior 10% deployment before roaming is proper and correct.’