Yesterday evening, the government approved the outline plan for deployment of fiber-optic cable networks in Israel. Minister of Communications Yoaz Hendel has been battling in recent weeks to pass the outline plan, which he described as critical for the communications market, particularly at a time of crisis. Even yesterday morning he received a message that the plan would not be raised for approval.
The outline plan deals with two main points. One is giving Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Co. Ltd. (TASE: BEZQ) and HOT Telecommunication Systems Ltd. (TASE: HOT) exemptions from the obligation to provide universal service throughout Israel. The second is the setting up of an investment fund financed by the telecommunications carriers to finance deployment in the periphery. The plan is critical because of the desire of the Ministry of Communications to get the project going at Bezeq and to enable the company to start deploying a fiber-optic network on a clear and agreed format and to understand the limits of its obligations before it embarks on a project at an investment of billions of shekels over five years initially, with expansions of the network for many years more.
The plan is for a new fiber-optic based network replacing the existing copper cables that will allow very high surfing speeds. The network, which will be open for use by Bezeq's competitors, will substantially improve Internet speeds in Israel and enable many new applications to be introduced, chiefly to accelerate the provision of digital services to both the domestic and enterprise markets.
Bezeq is already geared up for implementation of the plan, and is expected shortly to announce the start of the project.
A statement on behalf of Yoaz Hendel said, "I congratulate the citizens of Israel. We are now entering a new digital age. The time has come for us to close the gap and deploy advanced communications infrastructures throughout the country - in the center, in the periphery, and along the borders. Communications infrastructures are a mighty growth engine for the labor market and for GDP. They facilitate remote work and study and improved living conditions in the periphery of the country, with an emphasis on border areas, from the Gaza Strip surround to Holot Halutza, the Egyptian border, the Arava, the Jordan Valley, the Golan Heights, and the border in the north. The line of the plough and the line of the optical fiber are the line of the border."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on September 14, 2020
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