Comparing Israel's mobile phone carriers and plans.
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Until 2012, there were 3 mobile phone carriers in Israel; Pelephone, Orange and Cellcom. Cellcom was the market leader.
New immigrants found it difficult to choose a mobile phone carrier or plan as there was almost no English information available. Often they felt that they had been coerced into signing a Hebrew contract without fully understanding their commitment. People received outrageous bills for thousands of shekels. Customer service representatives, with almost no English, were known to be impatient and impolite, slamming down the phone or walking away from clients. Thankfully, things have improved a little.
Understanding the need for English resources, we took up the challenge and published Hebrew English translations of some of the mobile phone bills here:
New mobile phone carriers enter the market
The summer of 2012 brought about a revolution in the mobile phone market and 5 new carriers came onto the scene. Among them, HOT Mobile and Golan Telecom who began discounting mobile phone plans. Both started by offering unlimited plans for only 99 Shekels per month. This prompted the other mobile phone carriers to re-evaluate their packages and pricing.
Today the 8 carriers are;
- HOT Mobile
- Golan Telecom
- Rami Levy
- 012 Mobile
Competition between these 8 large carriers is fierce and now they all offer discounted packages.
Smaller, private companies offer mobile phone packages, internet and landline options. Some offer American or Canadian virtual numbers with caller ID which may be an important aspect of setting up your business in Israel.
Mobile phone packages start from 9 Shekels per month for a limited and metered plan. For around 39 shekels per month, you can get packages with unlimited texting and calls to local numbers, free or discounted calls to landlines and mobile numbers abroad. Internet access is also included in some of these packages. This is a far cry from the pre-revolution costs which ran into hundreds of shekels per month.
It is important to note that not all packages include international calls. Some packages include calls to specific countries only. Calls to international land-lines and international mobile numbers may be charged at different rates. Read the small print.
First & Second Generation Phones
There are still plans that are suitable for older phones (and Kosher phones) and some are suitable for 3rd generation only. It is important to sign up with a carrier that can support your phone. Not all carriers support Blackberry which many South Africans and immigrants from the U.S.A. bring on Aliyah with them.
Top Tip Before Changing Carriers
Before you take the final step and change over from your existing carrier to another one, we suggest that you contact your existing carrier, tell them with a firm voice, that you are planning to leave and ask if they can offer you a plan comparable to the one you are considering from the new carrier.
Purchasing a Mobile Phone
Purchasing a mobile phone from a cellphone carrier, in Israel, is expensive and you can get them cheaper from electronic stores around the country or online. The lesser-known Chinese brands you can purchase online basically all do the same thing and these are good options for young school children who are likely to lose or damage a phone. In order not to arouse the suspicions of the tax authority, don't place an online order more than phone at a time.
Do your homework before you commit to a buying a phone. Cellphone carriers are happy to sell you a phone and they will rope you into 36 month contract that you will not be able to get out of. Find out exactly what you are getting (or not getting) before you buy a phone from a retail electronic store. It may be worth buying from a Samsung or iPhone store, for example and paying an extra few hundred shekels for a full guarantee and original spare parts.
Tricks, Scams & Unwanted Contact
You get a call, as soon as you answer the phone, the other party hangs up. Out of curiosity you call back and find yourself listening to a recording - some special offer or incentive. In reality, there is no special offer and these calls are billed at top-dollar rates. Reports of billing at 160 shekels per minute and even as high as 5,132 shekels (!!!!!!!!!) per minute
Even though it is illegal to send out unsolicited messaging expect to get SMS text messages offering you loans at competitive rates and other deals you can hardly refuse. Unsubscribing from these lists is complicated and almost impossible if you do not have Hebrew skills. Ignore them and just click on DELETE.
Take a moment to browse these resources
Fun phone facts
Did you know that Motorola was the first company to produce a handheld mobile phone? On 3 April 1973, Martin Cooper, a Motorola researcher and executive, made the first mobile telephone call from handheld subscriber equipment, placing a call to Dr. Joel S. Engel of Bell Labs.