One of the first tasks awaiting incoming Minister of Communications David Amsalem is dealing with the poor mobile reception in Judea and Samaria (West Bank). Residents of the area suffer from severe reception problems in certain places, and claim that the situation sometimes becomes life-threatening.
Cellcom Israel Ltd. (NYSE:CEL; TASE:CEL), Partner Communications Ltd. (Nasdaq: PTNR; TASE: PTNR) and HOT Telecommunication Systems Ltd. (TASE: HOT) gave undertakings to the Ministry of Communications that they would set up cellular sites in places where there are holes in reception, but an audit by the ministry found that the companies failed to abide by these undertakings. Cellcom has not completed the construction of two sites, and Partner and Hot, which have a joint network, PHI, have not kept their commitment to construct four sites.
Ministry of Communications director-general Netanel (Natu) Cohen has entered the fray. In a letter to the companies, Cohen has asked for clarifications and an explanation of why they have not kept up with the agreed work plan.
The ministry may not be able to force the companies to set up the sites, but it can impose fines on them. The companies generally try to avoid clashes with the Ministry of Communications on matters such as this, and it can be assumed that they expected the ministry to hold back this time because of their difficult financial position.
Why have the companies delayed? Besides the basic cost of construction, in open country there are usually topographical and engineering difficulties, while the proposed sites are also vulnerable to terrorist action. Even within settlements it can be difficult to construct cellular sites, because the residents themselves object and demand that the site should be at a distance from their homes, which creates other problems.
Because of these difficulties, it was agreed between the companies and the Ministry of Communications that all the sites to be constructed would serve all the companies, in order to reduce costs and provide proper service to all the companies' subscribers. So far, however, the companies have not even kept to this agreement.
Cellcom stated in response: "The company is working in full cooperation with the ministry and will continue to do so." No response was received from Partner and Hot.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 8, 2019
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