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Wataniya Mobile launches in Gaza


Gaza gets a second mobile operator, but still users only have access to 2G services

Residents of Gaza finally have a choice of two mobile operators following the launch of Wataniya Mobile in the territory on Tuesday.

Wataniya Mobile, whose largest shareholder is Ooredoo, already offers services in the West Bank and has been working to extend to Gaza for a number of years.

"Since 2006…we have worked tirelessly to remove all obstacles that prevented Wataniya Mobile from entering Gaza officially, and we have succeeded," said Ooredoo chairman Abdulla bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani, in a statement.

The telco launched services in the West Bank in 2009, but obstacles around licensing and the availability of equipment made it difficult for it to extend services to Gaza, which until Tuesday was served by just one mobile operator, Jawwal, although some residents use Israeli networks.

Israel allowed Wataniya to import the equipment needed to roll out a mobile network earlier this year, according to the Palestine news agency Wafa.

As it stands, Palestinians have access to basic 2G mobile services only; neither Jawwal nor Wataniya has been able to secure approval to roll out 3G in the territory, although Israel has given the go-ahead for 3G in the West Bank, the news agency said.

It quoted Mohammad Mustafa, chairman of the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF), the investment arm of the Palestinian Authority, which also part-owns Wataniya Mobile, as saying that work is underway to secure Israel's approval for 3G in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the Times of Israel noted that 3G services have yet to launch in the West Bank, but said that issues regarding mobile licences and the availability of mobile network equipment in Palestine have been resolved.




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