In a turn of events that could cripple essential services and further isolate the region, all telecommunications and Internet services in Gaza have been shut down.
Recent Israeli airstrikes targeted and destroyed the last international cables connecting Gaza to the world, leaving its 4.3 million mobile subscribers and nearly half a million fixed-line users in a communication blackout.
Devastating Impact on a Thriving Sector
The West Bank and Gaza telecommunications sector has been a cornerstone of the Palestinian economy, with significant advancements in recent years.
In 2018, the launch of 3G services in the West Bank and the introduction of Ooredoo mobile phone and data service in Gaza marked key milestones.
The sector had been poised for further growth following U.S. President Joe Biden’s announcement in July 2022, promising the rollout of an advanced 4G infrastructure by the end of 2023. This commitment was seen as a gateway to digital transformation, increased productivity, and job creation across various sectors including health and education.
Telecommunications companies1 in the West Bank and Gaza have been grappling with Israeli restrictions on importing “dual-use” telecommunication equipment, causing delays and operational hitches.
The destruction of the last international cables exacerbates an already difficult situation, making recovery an uphill battle.
The severing of Gaza’s telecommunication links not only disconnects the region from the world but also jeopardizes its economic stability. The shutdown stands to impact businesses relying on real-time GPS and location data, particularly with the anticipated introduction of 4G technology in 2023.
The move also dampens the prospects for U.S. exporters of telecommunication equipment and services, antennas, two-way radios, access points, wireless solutions, fiber optic cables, and cybersecurity products, who had eyed the Palestinian market as a significant opportunity.
National Security Implications
Beyond the economic ramifications, the telecommunication blackout3 could have serious implications for Gaza’s national security. Inability to communicate effectively compromises not just everyday activities4 but also critical operations in areas such as healthcare, emergency services, and defense.