Israel's Cellcom picks NSN for LTE, plans deployment by end of 2014

Cellcom Israel has picked Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN) as the supplier of its LTE and LTE Advanced network and said it expects to achieve a wide deployment of the network by the end of the year.

No further details were provided on the cost or scope of the agreement with NSN. The Finland-based equipment manufacturer said the two companies had agreed not to disclose the value.

However, Cellcom did also note that the operation of the network as well as its LTE Advanced qualities are subject to regulatory approval and the availability of spectrum.

Also still subject to approval is Cellcom's plan announced in December last year to share the construction and operation of an LTE network under a 15-year agreement with rivals Pelephone and Golan Telecom.

The three companies said they will cooperate in obtaining frequencies for the LTE network, which will be constructed and operated by a separate entity that will be equally owned by Cellcom and Pelephone and overseen by representatives from all three operators. The three operators will each invest in, and operate, their own core network.

Last November, Partner Communications also agreed to a similar network sharing deal with HOT Mobile, part of Patrick Drahi's Altice group. The operator also said in early 2014 that it has deployed LTE at hundreds of its base stations but is also waiting to be granted the necessary spectrum.

It's still not clear when Israel's LTE auction will take place, but latest reports suggest Israel's Ministry of Communications is looking to establish three LTE networks and will allow almost unrestricted cooperation on infrastructure.

Cellcom is Israel's largest mobile operator with about 3.1 million subscribers. Partner Communications is the country's second-largest operator and operates under the Orange brand, while incumbent operator Bezeq Telecom owns Pelephone.

All three operators have faced considerable challenges since the market was opened up to more competitors, with six new operators starting operations in 2012.

Interestingly, Golan Telecom was one of those six operators and was founded by a group of French and Israeli entrepreneurs including Xavier Niel, the founder of Iliad and Free Mobile in France. Niel and Drahi are also about to become competitors on France's mobile market after Drahi's Numericable unit won the race to buy SFR from Vivendi.

For more:
- see this Cellcom release

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