Second Palestinian mobile provider enters Gaza


Palestinian company Wataniya Mobile said it will launch telecommunications services in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip on Tuesday, offering customers a choice of providers.

Wataniya, which operates in the West Bank and whose largest shareholder is Qatar's Ooredoo telecoms with 48.45 percent, becomes only the second mobile provider to serve Hamas-run Gaza.

The company?s chief executive in the Palestinian territories, Dergham Mari, said it would launch in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday "after the company completed the building of its latest communications network".

Wataniya said it had been trying to enter the Gaza market for several years, calling the launch a "real success for the Palestinian economy and the Gaza economy in particular".

"A number of obstacles have prevented the work of Wataniya in Gaza ... including Israel not allowing Palestinian equipment in, as well as Palestinian licenses," a company employee said on condition of anonymity.

"All these obstacles have now been lifted," said the employee, who added the company had around 150 staff in Gaza.

A company official told AFP that a reconciliation deal signed earlier this month between rival Palestinian movements Hamas and Fatah had encouraged Wataniya to launch services in Gaza.

Under the deal, the Palestinian Authority, based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is to retake control of the Gaza Strip from the Islamist movement Hamas by December 1.

For the past 20 years, Jawwal has been the only telecommunications company working in the strip, which is home to two million people.

3G services are still unavailable in Gaza and the West Bank, where the mobile company Jawwal also operates and some users subscribe with Israeli firms.