Israel's Pelephone picks Ericsson for LTE

Israel-based Pelephone has picked Ericsson as the equipment supplier for its LTE and LTE Advanced networks, and said it plans to launch the LTE network covering hundreds of sites in the Dan Region and Jerusalem within around three months.

No further details were provided on the cost or scope of the agreement with Sweden-based Ericsson.

The announcement by Pelephone, which is owned by Israeli incumbent Bezeq, comes about two weeks after rival Cellcom Israel picked Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN), now known as Networks within the new Nokia group, for the deployment of its LTE and LTE Advanced network. Cellcom said it expects to achieve a wide deployment of the network by the end of the year.

Like Cellcom, Pelephone noted that its network launch is subject to regulatory approvals and the allocation of the frequencies that are required to operate the technology.

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

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 the 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 reports in April suggested 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.

The three main network 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 Pelephone release from Bezeq

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