Cellcom Israel and Bezeq-owned Pelephone have launched LTE services in Israel on a limited basis, after the government gave its approval for the operators to use 5 MHz of the 1800 MHz frequency band.
The two mobile operators join Partner Communications, which started to offer LTE services from around the middle of July. Cellcom and Partner are able to use spectrum that they already own, while Pelephone is using two frequencies that it received on loan from the Ministry of Communications, local newspaper Globes reported.
The decision by the government allows the three network operators to launch LTE services ahead of the allocation of new spectrum for LTE and LTE Advanced networks. The Ministry of Communications issued a tender for 1800 MHz frequencies at the beginning of July. The results of the tender are expected to be announced by the end of the year.
In a statement, Cellcom said it would continue to roll out its LTE network "in order to achieve a wide and high-quality deployment by the end of the year."
All three operators are currently offering LTE services free of charge, and are expected to do so until they have won the extra frequencies for their network rollouts.
"The allocation of the additional frequencies will enable the realisation of the full 4G technology advantages," Partner said in July.
Cellcom, Partner and Pelephone also compete with newer operators Golan Telecom and HOT Mobile that also operate their own networks. The two newer players entered the market in 2012 when regulatory changes ushered in a total of six entrants, sparking a price war on the market.
Cellcom has already agreed an LTE network-sharing deal with Golan Telecom that will enable the latter to use Cellcom's LTE network and its existing 2G and 3G networks. However, Cellcom said it may have to change elements of this agreement based on a draft licence amendment attached to the LTE frequencies tender that sets out certain specific requirements for the approval of such network-sharing deals.
HOT Mobile and Partner have also formed a network-sharing deal that will allow the two operators to each offer LTE services.
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