Israel awards LTE spectrum to 6 players

Israel has awarded LTE spectrum in the 1800 MHz band to six companies, finally concluding a tender issued by the Ministry of Communications in July last year and opening up the LTE market to three new players.

The government raised a total of NIS250.5 million (€54 million/$63 million) from the tender.

As expected, the market's three largest mobile operators have all gained new frequencies: Cellcom was awarded 3 MHz of bandwidth, for which it paid NIS19.5 million; Partner Communications--which operates under the Orange brand name--received 5 MHz for NIS33.5 million; and Bezeq-owned Pelephone paid NIS96 million for 15 MHz.

These three companies already offer LTE services after the government allowed them to refarm spectrum previously used for 3G services: Partner claimed a market first with the launch of LTE services in July last year, followed by Cellcom and Pelephone in August.

All three operators are currently offering LTE services free of charge, and were expected to do so until they won the extra frequencies for their network rollouts.

In addition, three new companies will also now be able to enter Israel's 4G market, although whether a country with a population of just over 8 million people will be able to support six players remains to be seen.

HOT Mobile, owned by European cable and mobile group Altice, and Golan Telecom each bought a block of 5 MHz in the tender. Marathon 018, a new mobile operator, also bought 5 MHz of spectrum. The companies paid between NIS6.4 million and NIS6.9 million per 1 MHz of bandwidth.

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.

HOT Mobile and Partner have also formed a network-sharing deal that will allow the two operators to each offer LTE services. Reports suggest that Marathon 018 is also hoping to set up a shared network with an existing operator.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Cellcom release
- see this announcement from the Ministry of Communications (in Hebrew)

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