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Wataniya wins Israeli frequencies

Kuwaiti mobile firm given verbal consent to start operating second Palestinian mobile phone network.

Kuwait's National Mobile Telecommunications (Wataniya) has won Israeli frequencies to operate in the Palestinian territories, the Palestinian telecommunications and economy minister said on Wednesday.

Kamal Hassouneh said Israel's Communications Ministry had no objection to giving Wataniya, now controlled by Qatar Telecommunications (Qtel), frequencies required to start operating a second Palestinian mobile phone network.

"We have been demanding that Israel grant the frequencies needed for Wataniya for a long time. Israel gave its verbal consent," Hassouneh said, adding that Israel must grant frequencies under the Oslo peace accords.

There was no immediate comment from Wataniya in Ramallah.

A spokesman for Israel's Communications Ministry also had no immediate comment.

Hassouneh said Wataniya was ready to start operating immediately after getting the frequencies.

In December, Wataniya signed a deal with the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) to set up the firm. Under the deal, Wataniya will own 40% of the firm, while PIF will hold a 30% stake. The rest will be offered to Palestinian investors in an initial public offering.

In September, Wataniya was awarded the licence to build and operate the second Palestinian mobile telecommunications service, with a bid of 251 million Jordanian dinars ($354.3 million).

Wataniya had said the licence would allow for building and operating a GSM network and provide public mobile voice and data telecoms services in the Palestinian Territories. It would also provide for setting up and operating a high-speed third generation (3G) network.

Wataniya Telecom, the smaller of two mobile phone firms in Kuwait, has operations in Iraq, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and the Maldives.

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