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Jawwal relocates switches to Jordan

Palestine's only mobile operator to move switches from London

Palestine's only mobile operator will move the switches that route its mobile traffic from their current base in the UK to Jordan, the company's vice chairman and CEO has revealed.

At the moment all calls made on Palestine's only mobile network, Paltel's Jawwal, are routed to a switching centre in London.

But CEO Dr Abdulmalik Al-Jaber told delegates at the Arab Advisors telecoms conference today that the switches will be moved to Jordan "by the end of this year."

He explained that when the network was established in 2003, Israel did not allow Paltel to import any of its core network to Palestine, forcing the operator to locate them in another country.

"At the time, we had one of three options. We could have used the conventional Arabic way of whining and crying but five years later, the same switches would still be in the same container in the same port," he said.

Another option, to operate as a virtual network using the cell sites of one of four Israeli mobile operators whose signals cover Palestine was suggested by Israel, but was ruled out by Paltel.

"The idea of having the London location, with every single local call going to London was crazy," Al-Jaber said. "But when we were born as a company we were competing with four monsters, so we had no choice but to take such a risk."

A second operator, Wataniya, is due to launch in Palestine by the second half of this year. However, it is struggling to get the frequencies it needs to offer mobile services released by Israeli authorities.

Wataniya Palestine CEO Alan Richardson recently called on Middle East envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair to intervene on behalf of Wataniya to get the frequency released.

Al-Jaber declined to comment on the likely location of potential rival Wataniya's switches, but he said he was sure that they would not be in Palestine.

"I do hope that soon we will have Wataniya in Palestine. I would prefer to have Palestinian competitors rather than enemy operators. I am willing to give some of my market share for them," Al-Jaber said.

It is estimated that Israeli operators account for 20% of the mobile telecoms market in Palestine, with the rest served by Jawwal.