The Palestinian Postal Service Workers Union denounced the historic violation of Palestinian sovereignty over its communication networks under occupation.
As described in a document sent by the palestinian union, affiliated to the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggles, the “Zionist Entity wants the Palestinians to remain under the monopoly of Israeli telecom companies in order to make profit as well as to control the lives of the Palestinians”.
Since 1993, with the Oslo agreement, Israel has placed restrictions on the work of Palestinian telecommunications and internet companies and linked them to the infrastructure of the central Israeli telecommunications network, making them “hostage” and under permanent control.
“The agreement also granted the occupation authorities the right to control international outlets for communications, and imposed on Palestinian companies access to abroad through Israeli companies based on the powers granted to Israel, Which contributed to a significant impediment to the growth of telecommunications in Palestine”, is pointed out in the document.
The Palestinian people must have the right for self-determination what means to have the control over their lands, homes, schools, healthcare system and telecommunications without any Zionist interference.
The Brazilian Labor and People’s Federation CSP-Conlutas stands in solidarity with the Palestian people in their struggle to liberate all of Palestine, from the river to the sea.
Read the full document below:
Since its inception the Palestinian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has worked hard, by developing sectoral strategic plans to achieve sustainable economic and social development, providing universal access to information and communication technology at affordable prices, developing skills and applications of information and communication technology, mail and services, and providing a supportive legal and legislative environment and appropriateness, in addition to applying fair and transparent policies and procedures to build a partnership with the private sector within the framework of liberalizing the Palestinian telecommunications market. Despite all this efforts there are many obstacles and challenges facing the development and growth of the information and communication technology sector, the biggest of these challenges is the Israeli occupation, which impedes the growth of the Palestinian national economy.
In 1993, the Oslo agreement was signed between the Palestinians and the Israelis, which stipulated the Declaration of Principles for the Establishment of a Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in this agreement Israel has placed restrictions on the work of Palestinian telecommunications and internet companies and linked them to the infrastructure of the central Israeli telecommunications network, making them “hostage” and under permanent control.
Article 36 of Annex III of the Oslo agreement regarding the communications and information technology sector, which states “the Palestinian needs of the frequency spectrum, which must be met within a month of their submission to the Joint Technical Committee”, as the agreement granted the Israeli side The right to complete control of the frequencies spectrum in Gaza Strip and West Bank, including the frequencies of telephones, radio, television, satellite broadcasts, and determining the digital range of telephone services, but Israel keep violating this right by Israel’s prevention of Palestine’s access to frequencies.
The agreement also granted the occupation authorities the right to control international outlets for communications, and imposed on Palestinian companies access to abroad through Israeli companies based on the powers granted to Israel, Which contributed to a significant impediment to the growth of telecommunications in Palestine
According to recent World Bank, quality internet and digital money present huge opportunities in MENA region to boost economic growth, open new businesses, and create jobs in a new digital and mobile application economy in MENA named “moonshots”.
Unfortunately, the Israeli government policies on the ground have been a major constraint for a Palestinian moonshot.For example, on August 2020,the Israeli government concluded the auction of 5G multi-spectrum to Israeli operators and financially subsidizing them to roll-out 5G services. Likewise, on October 18th, 2020 the Israeli government issued a licenseto Bezeq to expand their fixed line telecommunication network in Palestine. This is only the latest saga to legitimize series of illegal competition, which can be characterized as a blatant market entrance for an Israeli fixed line operator.Simultaneously Israeli cellular operators have beenupgrading their cellular network technologies and expanding coverage over towers raised on illegal settlements built on occupied Palestinian territories.Israeli cellular operators arenow able to cover the West Bank with 5G services andare now marketing 5G services ata very low-price pointsfor a massive value of data plans. With such technology infrastructure penetration and pricing capability, the illegal competitionis a threat to the survival of the Palestinian mobile and fixed-line internet operators.
Minister of telecom and IT Dr. Ishaq Sider clarifies that the right to access communication and technology services is a humanitarian guaranteed by all international conventions. Whereas the Israeli government total control over the Palestinian frequency spectrumis inhibiting the management of a national wealth asset for the Palestinians. The international framework governing the use of frequency spectrum that allows for greater planning while improving spectrum occupancy and dividends is met with Israeli government appropriation of the Palestinian frequency spectrum for its own operators and other non-civil usage. This is making Palestinian frequency spectrum a scarce resource for Palestinian telecommunication operators. Hence, licensed Palestinian operators are technologically handicapped running on outdated 3G in the West Bank, which will globally be deemed obsolete technologies soon; whileGaza Strip is possibly the only geographic place left on earth that is forcibly still operating on 2G noting that the Palestinian 3G technology is limited with a very poor frequency allocation. It has been excruciating tooptimize Palestinian frequency spectrum usage while also providing more than 4 million Palestinian mobile subscribers with access to new broadband services of 4G/5G. Furthermore, The Israeli government control over area C in Palestineis constraining the management and coverage of a national cellular network with the installation of the needed equipment and towers. Likewise, the Israeli government is preventingthe Palestinian fixed line operator to install fiber optic cables infrastructure and network in rural Palestinian areas classified as area C.
These Israeli government restrictions to access Area C in Palestineand the appropriation of multi-spectrum frequenciesfor 4G/5G are currently driving the cost and needed investments on Palestinian mobile and fixed-line network installation, coverage and maintenance upwards. Palestinian telecommunication operators find themselves forking additionalcabling cost to reach Palestinian population areas, in which Area C disconnects them from shortestdistance and service easement for fiber-optic cabling; and installing additional cellular base sites, hardware and software toolsto reduce interference and compensate for cellular frequency shortages. Last but not least, the Israeli government exercises restrictions on telecommunication hardware imports.
Accordingly, Palestine is not capitalizing on its frequency spectrum assets and land contiguity; preventing its private sector, despiteitswillingness at no expected government subsidies,from investing in new telecommunication infrastructure to secure much needed broadband infrastructure. Furthermore, Palestine isnot leveraging the pool ofits available talent nor the innovation ecosystem; thus, not making use of high penetration of 4G enabled smart-phonesto spur new digital economy.
Positive Impact of 4G/5G on Palestine Moonshot:
The evolution of the cellular network broadband technology has started transferring of data with very high-speed (up to 1Gbps) and created the “app” economy with 4G that allowed more complex mobile applications, richer media experience for entertainment and gaming. With 4G, we could play mobile games, video call our friends, shop online, stream our favorite TV show with quality video and audio without getting annoyed at our slow internet connection, with greater security and more reliable connections. Now, 5G presents a futuristic outlook and offers higher speed that can reach up to 10Gbps. 5G enables new use cases and applications in Industry 4.0 systems that require high-bandwidth service such as Augmented and Virtual Reality; Internet of Things; e-Health, Connected Vehicles, Public Safety, Consumer products (Wearables, Smart Home, AR Gaming), Smart Cities Network, Precision Agriculture, Logistics, Fixed Wireless Access and Streaming in Crowded Areas).
For Palestinians, both 4G/5G are bound to:
- Meet the growing demand for high speed Internet connections by Palestinian subscribers,asthe improved broadband infrastructure is also bound toenhance customer experience. For example,
- 4G provide fast speed for more Palestinian customers withbetter quality at lower costs
- 4G provide reliable connectionsand improves quality voice callsand coverage as well as data transfers
In 2018, 65% of the households in Palestine have internet accesswith 469,741 telephone lines (Home, Commercial, Governmental) at the end of 2018 with ADSL subscribers increased to about 361 thousand while the mobile cellular subscriptions increased by the January 2020 to reach 4.33 million. Furthermore, 37% of households own a computer (Desktop, Laptop or Tablet) and 82% of households that own one Smartphone or more. However, the average internet speed was a mere 11.0 Mbps at the end of 2018. There has been a growing societal demand for broadband in 2020.
With a population thirsty for Internet connection; see additional examples below on how quality broadband will further impact economic and social development in Palestine.
- Enable Moonshot economic impact on a societyincludes:
- Where 4G can trigger the digital and application economy, 5G can contribute to further industrial advances through predictive intelligence; improving workplace and worker safety; and enhancing operational effectiveness.
- Improved 4G/5G infrastructure will also contribute to fostering innovation and e-services – it’s the ecosystem of services and applications that these new 4G/5G networks will enable
- If not spurring new digital economy, 4G/5G provide power efficiency.
- 4G/5G can also reduce service cost of Mbps and impact industry by managing the carbon footprint.
- Another example is Narrow band IoT (NBIoT) over 4G enables connectivity of devices to last years on small batteries without the need for charging.
- 4G/5G infrastructure will impact apositive growth to GDP and Tax Revenue.
During 2013 – 2015, the World Bank reportedan estimated total revenue loss for Palestinian mobile operators ranged fromUS$ 436 to 1,150 million. The revenue lossdirectly attributable to the absence of 3G is between US$ 339 and 742 million and the totalValue Added Tax (VAT) fiscal loss for the Palestinian Authority is between US$70 and US$184 million. The direct impact represented upto 3.0% of the GDP over the mentioned three years. In 2016, the World Bank also estimated that Israeli operators have captured up to 30% of the West Bank market involume(number of subscribers). The Israeli market share in value, measured by the total sales, was put even at higher numbers as Israeli operators captured high value-added Palestinian customers by providing 3G and 4G during these years.
Today, the history of losses is repeating itself due to Palestinians’ inability to deploy 4G/5G. While anupgrade to4G/5Gnetwork promises an increase intelecommunication market value, Palestinians continue to incur revenue losses; similar to those estimated by the World Bank between 2013 – 2015. With recent Israeli operators rolling out 5G services, Israeli 4G/5G SIM cardswill continue capturing up-to 30% of the West Bank market in volume. These illegal Israeli SIM cards used by Palestinianshave continued tosustainlosses to operators and as importantly tax revenue losses for the Palestinian government;the latter recentlyestimated atUS$400 million over the past four years.
- Enable impact on a society.
- Improved broadband infrastructure will bridge the digital divide contributing to deliver social valuethat correspond to many of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)such as: Goal 3: Good e-health and social well-being; Goal 4: Better access and coverage for quality education content; Goal 5: Gender Equality; Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth; Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; Goal 10: Reduced Inequality; Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities and Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.
- The year 2020 is tagged with the CoViD-19 pandemic. Its impact has been enormous on our Palestinian society and has made the demand on broadband services even greateras it disrupted all aspects of Palestinian lives, and has left no one or business untouched. These trends will become the norm in the Palestinian society.
- Recent trends of Palestinian society hungry for broadband include, but not limited to:
- Due to limited job opportunities amongst university graduates, remote worknumbers are on the rise. Freelancing is high for Palestinian youthliving in urban and rural areas.
- On the rise Work from home activities for employees due to CoViD-19
- Increase in e-commerce activities and household delivery logistics
- e-Schoolsand Online Educationprograms are expected to be the norm for Palestinians where 45% of Palestinian population are below the age of 18 years. Neweducation software tools for content creation and streaming have been consuming high broadband.Students at universities and schools are meeting their lecturers and teachers over virtual class interaction and videoconferencing. More than 1M child are attending schools all overPalestine including remote areas classified as C area.
- e-Health and supporting industry such as pharmaceutical and insurance, where dependency on broadband connectivity is needed for remote diagnostics, patient data transmission with high speed and less latency.
- Other digitizationsuch asin energy and utility sectors like utility management and smart metering will eventually be supporting smart cities with IoT and Machine to Machine connectivity. For example, with growth of solar energy site installationand more photovoltaic cells panels aremounted on residential /agriculture farming / industrial / education rooftops sites; there has been a growing need for reliable and low-cost service in order to monitor and manage these panels.
The Palestine “moonshot” … is in its Digital Transformation: A “moonshot” that will help Palestine accelerate progress, brings high-speed connectivity to all, and lays the foundations for a vibrant digital economy.
- Spectrum Availability. To unlock the full potential of 4G/5G networks Palestinian cellular operators will need a sufficient mix of low-mid-and high-band spectrumon exclusive basis and not shared with the Israeli operators – Israeli government is required to release this frequency spectrum
- Infrastructure / Networks. While capital investments by the Palestinian private sector has been and will continue to be critical for building the 4G/5G and fiber optic broadband network infrastructure – Israeli government is required to permit Palestinian operators to work in Area C
- Business Climate. A combination of access to funding, openness to risk, and business friendly policies will create an environment that is conducive to technological innovation.
- InnovationEcosystem. Government policies, investors and international community should encourage ample private sector R&D spending and provide strong IP protection to nurture cycles of innovation development.
Universities and NGOs
- Talent. To ensure that the workforce has the skills necessary for future technological changes, tech related certification and degree training will be critical.
Technology entrepreneurship Experiential learning to ensure the workforce has the knowledge and skills for innovation
- Infrastructure / Networks. Capital investments by the Palestinian private sector has been and will continue to be critical for building the 4G/5G and fiber-optic network infrastructure
- Innovation Ecosystem. Investors to lead private sector R&D spending
 5G offers on-demand tailored connectivity through ultra-reliable low latency communication (uRLLC); higher speed over enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) that can reach up to 10Gbps that can handle high volumes of traffic, consequently reducing the cost per Mbps realizing power efficiency. Also, for massive multiple input, multiple-output (MIMO), small cell implementation and the use of mmWave bands also permits the provision of high-speed connections. 5G massive machine-type communications (mMTC) enables the connection of a large number of devices and sensors.
 PwC and World Economic Forum, “The Impact of 5G: Creating New Value across Industries and Society”, 2020