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Mon 22 Jan 2018 08:30 AM

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Palestinian firms plan to finally offer 3G mobile service

Israel previously blocked Palestinian mobile companies' access to the necessary frequencies

Palestinian firms plan to finally offer 3G mobile service
Palestinian Fatma Abu Musabbeh uses her mobile phone to take pictures of children for her social media account in Deir alBalah in the central Gaza strip. Photo: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images

Palestinian mobile firms in the occupied West Bank hope to finally be able to offer 3G service to customers beginning Tuesday, years after much of the rest of the world began using it.

Talks on 3G mobile have long dragged on, with Israel having previously blocked Palestinian mobile companies' access to the necessary frequencies.

There were still concerns final arrangements would not be completed in time, with officials saying they were awaiting a final technical step from Israel.

"Everything is ready and we left it to telecom companies to choose the right times, and they said it will be Tuesday morning," Palestinian deputy telecommunications minister Suleiman Al-Zuheiri told AFP on Sunday.

"We are launching this service, which is a big achievement, but we are launching it 12 years late."

The service will be available only in the West Bank for now and not the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Al-Zuheiri said mobile companies are waiting for Israeli approval to bring equipment into Gaza.

"We are trying to mobilise pressure on Israel to let us work in Gaza," he said.

The Israeli defence ministry unit that oversees civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories had not yet responded to a request for comment.

Mobile operators Jawwal and Wataniya, the only two in the Palestinian territories, have provided selected customers with free internet access for three days.

Ads on Facebook and local newspapers were also promising internet access.

In 2015, Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement on 3G, but it has yet to be offered.

The lack of 3G access and its data capacity has been seen as a significant brake on the Palestinian economy.

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