Palestinian Mobile

Palestinian mobile providers began offering 3G plans in the occupied territories this week after an Israeli ban was lifted.

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Now, Palestinian startups in the occupied West Bank are looking to future opportunities.

The two main Palestinian network providers, Jawaal and Wataniya, released their 3G bundles to the public on January 23 and 24, respectively.

RedCrow Chief Operating Officer Laila Akel anticipates an increase in users and a decrease in cost within Palestine now 3G is available.

Founded in the West Bank city of Ramallah, RedCrow Intelligence provides security warnings and analysis primarily through its mobile application.

However, the lack of internet connectivity outside of the central population centres limited RedCrow’s reach.

“If we talk about Gaza or northern and southern West Bank, their access to WiFi is even more limited than in Ramallah. Clients need [our service] most … when they are moving,” Akel explained.

RedCrow has found success in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, where 3G is widely available in major population centres. But it needed to provide an SMS service for their clients in Palestine.

The $500 average cost per month to receive text message notifications of security situations across Palestine limited the users who signed up for RedCrow.

“It makes it cheaper for us in other countries because we don’t have to pay the SMS fees [and] it also makes it cheaper for clients,” Akel explained.

Now that 3G is available across the West Bank, RedCrow will link real-time events to maps, updating clients depending on their geolocation – the location tracked by their mobile phone’s data connectivity.

Palestinian Information Technology Association of Companies (PITA) Chairman Yahya al-Salqan said there were many barriers for startups and entrepreneurs before 3G arrived.

“Yes, we found alternatives – every restaurant and coffee shop has WiFi – but it’s not to the point where startups can create a geo-based application,” Salqan told Al Jazeera.

He points to new taxi services, Rocab and Pal Taxi, available in certain cities of the West Bank that rely on geolocation.

“Having these applications without 3G becomes useless,” Salqan said.

The introduction of 3G will make these taxi services, as well as other location-dependent services, available to Palestinians.