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Palestinian network launches without spectrum

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Palestine network Wataniya has gone ahead with a commercial launch, relying on Tony Blair's assurances that Israel will release the needed radio spectrum very soon.

The launch of the network was in doubt, as Israel hadn't handed over 1MHz of radio spectrum - split in to two lumps - which is critical to the expansion of Wataniya. The operator has decided to launch with what it's got and hope that Tony can sort it out before the additional spectrum is needed.

Wataniya Mobile was supposed to launch in Palestine back in October, but Israel's insistence on hanging onto the two slivers of spectrum raised the possibility of the launch being cancelled. This would probably see Wataniya asking for its $140m licence payment back, not to mention refusing to pay the remaining $215m licence fee and trying to claim back the $100m it's sunk into building the network.

But now the company has decided to go ahead with the launch, despite not having enough radio spectrum for a full-scale service, on the basis that the 3.8MHz of spectrum the company has got is enough for a slow roll-out in the short term.

The company isn't worried, as it explained to PolicyTracker. This is because Tony Blair, official representative of the Middle East Diplomatic Quartet*, has assured them that the spectrum will be released "in the near future", apparently having received such assurances from Israel.

So while Wataniya is now on the air in Palestine, its future is based on Tony Blair's promises about what Israel has promised. ®

* Comprising the UN, the US, the EU and Russia

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