5G launch in Israel with 3 network operators awarded licenses; fiber optic programs of 2 others are approved
Israeli Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel has announced that Partner Communications, Pelephone and Hot Mobile have been awarded licences to operate 5G communications networks in the country, Globes reported. It would appear that Pelephone, Partner and Hot Mobile will receive the full grant since they finished setting up the first 250 cellular sites in the third quarter. Those who did not receive the license to operate the 5G network this morning are the last group in the tender, which includes Cellcom, Golan Telecom and Expon.
Hendel said it was important to award the licenses quickly so that 5G services could begin as soon as possible. The minister said that Israel was going through a difficult period, and that it was good that there were some hopeful signs of progress and growth. He also said that his ministry would put an emphasis on transparency on 5G coverage as well as on other matters. Hendel will extend the work of the frequencies’ committee to award more frequencies to be used for 5G networks.
- Pelephone CEO Ran Guron said that his company’s subscribers would be able to receive 5G services immediately in 150 towns and cities in Israel.
- Partner CEO Itzik Benbenishti said that today’s announcement was very significant news for all Partner’s subscribers, especially at the beginning of the new year in the Jewish calendar.
- Hot Mobile CEO Ilan Brook said that his company was very excited, and that from today the company’s subscribers, both business and private, would be able to benefit from 5G services.
Pelephone claims that “hundreds of sites” have been deployed in about 150 cities and localities, including: Tel Aviv, Haifa and the Krayot, Raanana, Dimona, Kiryat Shmona and more. According to the company, there is at least one mobile site that supports 5G in every city and locality in the country. Therefore, even if you have a smartphone that supports 5G, it is not certain that you will be able to find the few sites that have been established in all of Israel.
In contrast to Pelephone and Partner, which announced that all their customers who own supported 5G mobile devices will be able to use the new network at no extra charge, Hot Mobile asked its customers who want to join the 5G network to join the company’s new 5G subscriber programs (TBD).
Two other important telecom events in Israel are the entry of HOT Telecommunication Systems Ltd. into the fiber-optic venture IBC (Israel Broadband Company), and government approval for Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Co. Ltd.’s fiber-optic program. Earlier in September, Bezeq said it would invest billions of shekels in the coming years to accelerate deployment of a nationwide fiber optics network, with connections to ultra-fast Internet to begin in a few weeks.
These two events, together with the award of 5G licenses in the mobile market and the forthcoming abolition of the split in the Internet market between infrastructure and service provision, set out new borderlines for the Israeli telecommunications market. The main aim is to narrow the gap between Israel and the rest of the world when it comes to (Internet/web) surfing speed. This will facilitate the development of digital services and greater innovation in the economy.
The Hot-IBC deal would never have happened were it not for the approval given to Bezeq’s fiber-optic proposal, and even more so were it not for the failure of the deal whereby Hot was to have acquired Partner. The aim of that deal was to overcome Hot’s difficulty (some would say its owner’s refusal) to enter on investment in a fiber-optic project without partners.
However you look at it, Hot has become a strange sort of telecommunications company, with no infrastructure that it owns outright. An unnatural hybrid has been created here, the result of continual regulatory distortions together with an owner, Patrick Drahi, who has utterly despaired of the local regulators. As a result, he has decided to invest the bare minimum in Israel, and to concentrate his main efforts on the rest of the world. Ultimately, Hot accounts for only a small fraction of the global business of Drahi’s Altice, so that there is a limit to the resources that can be devoted to it.
Bezeq finds itself where it likes to be. It comes to life when it has a big infrastructure project before it. After many delays, crises, and disputes with the Ministry of Communications, the company is back to dealing with such a project. The question is whether it was right to wait for all the conditions to mature, or whether it should have embarked on the project earlier.
The implication is that State of Israel has lagged behind in the field of telecom infrastructure for more than three decades. Perez wrote that “Israel has deteriorated by all measures of telecommunications efficiency, and important reforms have not been made, because of the regulator’s desire to punish Bezeq for past sins.”