Partner Communications claimed a market first in Israel with the launch of LTE services there, following a government decision to allow the refarming of spectrum for LTE services.
Partner, which sells services under the Orange brand in Israel, said it will now enable its customers with LTE-enabled handsets "to benefit from advanced services based on this technology in areas in which the 4G network is already deployed". Indeed, the operator is already splashing "Orange 4G" across its web site.
Partner said it will not charge a premium for the services for the time being, although it implied that a premium would be levied once it has won additional frequencies following the LTE frequencies tender that was announced on July 2 by the Ministry of Communications.
"The allocation of the additional frequencies will enable the realisation of the full 4G technology advantages," Partner added.
The Ministry of Communications had earlier announced that the market's three incumbent operators would be able to use 5 MHz of 1800 MHz spectrum for LTE services. That means the ministry is permitting the refarming of spectrum previously reserved for 3G services, for example.
The move is subject to certain conditions, including a ban on extra charges for LTE services until the new frequencies are allocated and LTE rollout objectives.
The Globes newspaper reported that while Partner and rival operator Cellcom already own the required spectrum, Pelephone would have to borrow 5 MHz for its launch ahead of the allocation of new frequencies.
Cellcom, Partner and Pelephone, owned by the fixed-line incumbent Bezeq, 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 newer operator 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 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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