Partner Communications

(Nasdaq, LSE:PTNR) has decided to move ahead with its plans to upgrade data transmission speed on cellular devices.

Partner today announced the launch of a 28.8 KB per second Internet access service, one quarter later than originally intended. The service is targeted for use by the mobile computer market, and will provide wireless access to the web through a PCMCIA card. The price of the card, together with a SIM card, is NIS 2,340 and each minute of airtime will cost 54 agorot.

The company's high-speed circuit switch technology facilitates the transmission of data through three channels, instead of one. This increases the rate of data transfer threefold. The current data transmission rate on Partner's GSM network is 9.6 KB per second.

Partner launched initial WAP services seven months ago, as did its main Israeli competitor

Pele-Phone Communications

. The service has its faults: users find it cumbersome and they must change their computer's configuration beforehand. In addition, users cannot connect from all locations. On the plus side though, the service can be used both within Israel and abroad, in any country where the HSCSD service exists.


, another of Partner's competitors, is also marketing a PCMCIA card which operates in the packet switching method: 19.2 KB per second CDPD. This card, like Partner's, serves as modem for mobile computers. In addition, Cellcom is also marketing a CDPD type wireless modem for Palm devices.

Meanwhile, Pele-Phone facilitates its data transmission through subsidiary Go Next, and its rate of transmission is 14.4 KB per second. Pele-Phone promises future rates of up to 64 KB per second.

Partner promises that HSCSD would soon facilitate access at up to 43.2 KB per second.

Partner is planning to facilitate packet switching data transmission on GPRS technology during the first half of 2001. That's in contrast with the current circuit switching used in HSCSD technology. Partner is conducting GPRS tests with


(Nasdaq:ERICY) in Rosh Ha'ayin, the company's home base.

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Communication ministry refuses Partner's request to release MIRS correspondence

Meanwhile, the communication ministry has refused Partner's request to release all of the department's correspondence with

MIRS Communications

, as part of the preliminary hearing held by the department ahead of licensing MIRS as a fourth cellular provider,


daily newspaper reported.

Partner and Cellcom have already filed their objections and are planning to appeal to the Supreme Court, should the licensing take place. The license and the adjustments made to it by the Communications Ministry are not appropriate, Partner claims.

There has been some talk that Pele-Phone declined from commenting on the MIRS' license because


(NYSE:MOT), a stockowner in Pele-Phone (soon to sell off its holdings to Shamrock) and owner of a the controlling interest in MIRS, silenced them due to its conflict of interest.

Pele-Phone declined to comment on this saying that the Communications Ministry did not ask for its opinion on the matter.

After months of prosperity a decline in new cellular subscriptions

Cellcom, the largest of Israel's cellular companies, has meanwhile added 80,000 new subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2000. Cellcom recorded 1.77 million subscribers as of the end of the previous quarter. The company hopes to reach its target of 1.85 million subscribers by its year end.

Cellcom vice president Oren Most says this year alone the company added 550,000 new subscribers, compared with 520,000 in 1999. He also admits that 150,000 subscribers left the company during this period. Out of that number 20,000 were users who failed to upgrade their telephone device to the IS136 standard and 75,000 were disconnected due to billing problems. The rest are those who decided not to use cellular phones anymore, those that died and those that went to live abroad. Very few transferred to other networks, Most claims.

During the previous quarter, Cellcom attracted the most subscribers, though Partner and Pele-Phone also clocked up 130,000 subscribers. But, the two latter companies have yet to release their fourth quarter reports.