Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Israel lifts ban on Palestinian 3G


By Martin Leeper - January 25, 2018
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This week a Palestinian telecom company was allowed to provide 3G data service for the first time. This makes Palestine one of the last places on earth to receive 3G coverage.

Citing security measures, Israel has banned the West Bank from 3G access for years, but Murwan Hamad, the Executive Manager at Intertech, Ramallah, thinks there are other reasons. “Assume that the Israelis made very good business from the Palestinians when you talk about 800,000 Israeli lines in the Palestinian market,” he told Palestine Monitor.

According to a report from al-Shabaka, a Palestinian think-tank, it is estimated that 20 to 40 percent of the West Bank’s telecommunications network is controlled by Israeli companies. That translates to a loss of “$80 to $100 million dollars annually for Palestinian providers, not to mention the tax revenue lost as that money flows to Israeli companies such as Cellcom, Orange and Pelephone.

When asked if he thought there would be a significant difference with 3G, Sarah Hamad, Marwan’s teenage daughter chimed in, “I don’t think there will be much of a difference. [We] won’t need to ask for the restaurant’s WiFi password now… but we were already connected.”

Marwan, the Manager of the “largest web design and development agency in Palestine,” said he thinks it will change, but in vague terms. “[We] will communicate faster now, all of the time, [which] will bring good business as well.” He added, however, that the main thing is he “will be saving money now…and there will be better coverage.” Marwan is one of the Palestinians in the West Bank using an Israeli sim card in order to already get data on his phone, but he said the Israeli service is very “poor and very expensive.” Not only is data cheaper but he says, he won’t have to use his minutes as much, and instead will be able to call on “whatsapp or messenger for almost free.”

When asked why they thought the ban was being lifted now, Marwan said “We have WiFi everywhere, even in the streets now, [so what does it matter] if it is live or just upload it in a cafe? We are already very connected.”

“It’s [another] war as well, this technology between [Palestine] and Israelis, you know. They say that it’s security not business [for the Israelis]” Marwan said. “[Now] we have 3G everywhere and we’re just happy. But also assume that the Israelis made very good business from Palestinians.”

3G technology is over 15 years old, outdated by any stretch of the technological timeline. But Sarah doesn’t mind, “everything needs to start from a point,” she says.

The Gaza Strip still remains without 3G access.

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