Palestinians in the West Bank finally have a second cellphone network after months of disputes with Israel, but with less capacity than originally planned.
Wataniya company launched its network Sunday with a frequency range of 3.8 megahertz, 1 MHz below what was promised and not enough to reach all the Palestinians in the West Bank.
The new company, which operates only in the West Bank, breaks the decade-old monopoly of the Jawwal network and could significantly lower cellphone costs by introducing competition.
It is expected to boost the Palestinian economy.
The Palestinians reached an agreement with Israel, which controls the airwaves over the West Bank, in May 2008 to set up a second cellphone carrier.
Muhammad Mustafa, chairman of the Palestine Investment Fund, which owns 43 percent of Wataniya, said the company could have started operating seven months ago but was delayed because of Israeli "stalling" over allocating the remaining frequencies.
Israeli defense officials attributed the delay to internal Palestinian business disputes.
Yehiel Shavi, a Communications Ministry spokesman, said Israel would provide the additional 1 MHz soon but gave no time line.
Mustafa said the network began operating Sunday after international Mideast envoy Tony Blair had promised the additional 1 MHz would be delivered soon. In the meantime, Mustafa said, the current frequencies were enough to serve 1 million subscribers. Some 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank.
Wataniya said the new company would create 2,500 jobs in the West Bank. Blair said the carrier would inject $700 million in investment and $354m. in one-time licensing fees into the Palestinian Authority.