Golan Telecom Looking to Expand to Internet-based TV, Phone Services

Cell phone service provider signs agreement with Bezeq to conduct trial on new services before receiving Communications Ministry approval.

Cellular phone service upstart Golan Telecom signed an agreement with Bezeq Tuesday to offer Internet and Internet-based television and telephone services on a trial basis. Golan has also received a license from the Communications Ministry to offer the services on an experimental basis. Close to 100 users are expected participate in the new trial services.

While Golan is interested in expanding into three areas — Internet, Internet Protocol television (IPTV) and Voice over Internet Protocol (or VoIP, meaning voice communications over the Internet) — the economic feasibility of such a move will depend on the price Bezeq will charge the company for using its Internet infrastructure. The rate will be determined under Communications Ministry supervision. Golan operates under a similar arrangement with Cellcom Israel, which the company pays to provide its current 307,000 subscribers with countrywide cellular phone network coverage.

For the experiment, Golan plans to provide trial customers with a converter box that will provide access to 10 TV channels through the Internet, including major channels 1, 2, 10, the Knesset Channel (Channel 99) and Educational Television. However, Golan has yet to seek approval from the stations. The company also intends to offer video-on-demand services for trial users, with a choice of 50 different movies.

The experiment is intended to test the functioning of Golan's new services and the degree to which they can be smoothly integrated with Bezeq's Internet infrastructure, transmitting data at 100 megabytes per second. The company will use the trial to examine its access management system to ensure that it can protect content and restrict its access to paying customers.

At the conclusion of the experiment, Golan will have to provide a detailed report to the Communications Ministry, based upon which the ministry will decide whether to grant the company permanent approval to offer the three new services to customers.

A potential competitor for Golan in this new market is Partner Communications, which operates Israel's Orange cell phone network. Partner has received a license to try out similar technology operating over the infrastructure of cable Internet provider HOT Telecommunication Systems.

Moti Milrod