Palestine Minister of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Mousa Allam, has issued a call to action to International rights organizations, the International Telecom Union and other related bodies to take action against continued Israeli seizure of Palestinian 3G and 4G frequency rights.According to the PNN, the minister stressed that this reality continues to severely handicapp the Palestinian ICT sector, due to Israeli control of radio frequencies considered essential for the continued sustainability of the sector, and for the broader socio-economic growth and development.
‘It is unfortunate that Israel continues to put at siege the Palestinian economy through the implementation of a closure regime, the prevention of direct import of ICT equipment into West Bank and Gaza, and the continued captivation of radio frequencies for the Telecom sector,’ an official ICT statement noted.
The Minister of Telecom stressed that the continued captivity by Israel of 3G and 4G frequencies constitutes a blatant act of illegal conduct and economic manipulation. Such an act is in contravention of the following articles in relation to international treaties and conventions, including the bilateral Oslo agreement between the Government of Israel and the PLO, which organized the legal framework governing Palestinian-Israeli Telecom Relations:
1. Geneva Convention IV and the Hague Convention of 1907-Natural Resources: The Palestinian Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS) extends throughout the airspace of the area of the 1967 borders. The EMS is a Palestinian natural resource which should be freely accessible and Israel cannot utilize for its own economic benefit.
2. ITU Resolution No.99 and No. 125: The main principles include the Palestinian management of the Palestinian spectrum and the establishment of the Palestinian international gateway. In addition, it calls for the development of the Palestinian telecom network in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
3. Interim Agreement between Israel and the PLO, Article 36 of Annex III: The main principles of the agreement include; the Palestinian jurisdiction over the telecom sector in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the emphasis of this article unequivocally that any Israeli operator may not offer its services in the Palestinain Telecom area without prior license from the Palestinian side. Moreover, Israel should fulfill the Palestinian arising needs regarding the frequency assignment within one month from the date of the Palestinian request.
To this end, the Ministry quotes, in part, the relevant principles stipulated under section B of this article:
1. Israel recognizes that the Palestinian side has the right to build and operate sepate and independent communication systems and infrastructures including telecommunication networks, a television network and a radio network.
2. The Palestinian side has the right to establish its own telecommunications policies, systems and infrastructures. The Palestinian side also has the right to choose any and all kinds of communication systems (including broadcasting systems) and technologies, suitable for its future in , inter alia, basic and value added services (including cellular telephony).
3. Operators and providers of services, presently and in the future, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip shall be required to obtain the necessary approvals from the Palestinian side. In addition, all those operating and/or providing services, presently and in the future , in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip who wish to operate and/or provide services in Israel , are required to obtain the necessary approvals from the Israeli Ministry of Communications.
‘The reality remains today that the two main telecom operators in Palestine have been put at a disadvantage position in comparison to their peers in the globe. Their ability to have expansion and quality services in mobile telephony is absolutely dependent on the obtaining of additional frequencies in both the3G and 4Gtechnologies,’ said Mr. Allam Musa, Minister of Telecom, State of Palestine. Today, 3G is essential for advancing the socio-economic development of Palestine where it will benefit the community by supporting the creation of information, enabling citizens to access vital communication services and promoting the development of technology advancements.3G is a must for quality services, for broadband services and value added services including data services especially for new generation smart phones.
The establishment of a future 3G network in Palestine is responsible for enhancing quality of life and providing economic opportunities both in the public and private sectors which in turn will result in increased competition, flow of new startups, the development of innovative new services for consumers and greater productivity of workers. In the MENA region, it is forecasted that the number of 3G connections will grow from 70 million in 2010 to 363 million in 2016, which will represent 84% of all mobile connections (up from 18% in 2010).
The lack of 3G goes beyond lost customers to the telecommunications companies. One of the fastest growing areas in the IT industry is the development of applications for smart phones and wireless communications. With no 3G services to support it, industrial growth is stunted in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Telecom survival may depend upon being able to offer 3G services as the number of smart phones increases and the world moves onto 4G and LTE services.
Israeli deprivation of Palestinian operation of 3G-band technology translates into the reality of suffering as a result of illegal infringements imposed into the market using the attractiveness of this cutting edge technology, where Israeli operators are chasing the Palestinian operators’ customers.
‘The West Bank is riddled with towers belonging to Israeli operators which are scattered throughout the territories often inside illegal settlements in order to attract current Palestinian customers to roam on the Israeli network with 3G availability, a reality which has direct financial cost on lost revenues for the sector and the state in the realm of hundreds of millions of US dollars,’ added Minister Allam.
Continued deprivation from additional frequencies will result in retraction of the ability of the operators to serve more customers and provide connectivity to all of the territories; thus creating a retraction to one of the fastest growing economic sectors.
‘Security concerns stated by Israel are invalid and an unjustified pretext to reject our request especially when Israeli operators are offering the same service in the West Bank illegally,’ Allam noted.
The upside of the introduction of 3G/4G in Palestine will translate into several areas of which digital inclusiveness is contributing to an increase in direct and indirect employment, capital investments, technology infrastructure and the creation of new industries. Additionally, improved levels of broadband Internet penetration will, in turn, lead to complementary benefits in the form of an enhanced GDP and job creation opportunities in the telecommunications sector. Direct investments in communications technology development are strongly correlated with increased job creation, especially in the reduction of youth unemployment, which stands at 45%, by providing an environment for youth to use mobile technology in innovative new startup businesses.
‘Today, history is repeating itself; on January 12, 2015 the Israeli Ministry of Communications announced the completion of the allocation of 4G spectrum to Israeli companies, as they did in 2006 for the allocation of 3G spectrum. While we see this accelerated development in Israel, Palestinians are not even allowed to expand their 2G networks, or liberalize the mobile communication sector in Gaza ,or even have a professional discussion on access to 3G spectrum that is becoming a declining technology. We, therefore, are issuing a universal appeal to all international organizations and individuals, who are responsible for the assurance of international law, and fair practices to intervene in rectifying these illegal acts that remain today depriving Palestine from its right to have 3G and 4G for its telecom operators and the ICT sector as a whole,’ concluded the Minister.
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