A Palestinian seller shows a smartphone to a customer in a mobile phone shop in Gaza City..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Wataniya Mobile, a Palestinian cellular operator, launched service in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, providing Gazans with a second mobile provider.
Palestinian officials, diplomats and business executives marked the company’s entry into the Gazan market at an event at the high-end Al Mashtal Hotel in Gaza City.
Deputy Palestinian Telecommunications Minister Suleiman Zuhairi said adding Wataniya to the market will improve cellular services in the coastal territory.
“With two companies in Gaza, there will be greater competition, which means better cellular services and lower prices,” Zuhairi told The Jerusalem Post in a phone call.
The other major Palestinian cell provider Jawal has monopolized the Palestinian mobile market since entering it in 1999. According to the Palestinian Information and Technology Association of Companies, an organization that represents more than 150 Palestinian technology companies, Jawal controls 81.5% of the Palestinian mobile market.
Wataniya operations director in Gaza, Haisam Abu Shaaban, said his company plans to add a total of 150 direct jobs and 850 indirect positions to the Gazan economy.
According to Abu Shaaban, Wataniya has thus far invested $40 million in Gaza and plans to invest another $20m.
The unemployment rate in Gaza stands at 42% in general and 58% for youth, some of the highest worldwide.
Moreover, 80% of Gazans rely on some form of humanitarian aid.
Shaaban added that Wataniya, largely owned by the Qatari Telecommunications company Ooredoo and the PA’s sovereign wealth fund, had to overcome Israeli restrictions to launch its services in Gaza.
“It took several years to receive permission from the Israeli side to operate in Gaza and import the necessary equipment to build a mobile network,” he said.
The PA granted Wataniya a license to operate in the Gaza in 2007. However, Israel only granted the company permission to operate in the territory in November 2015.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the branch of the Defense Ministry that liaises with Palestinians on civil affairs, was asked to respond to Abu Shaaban’s comments, but a relevant response was not received.