According to ITU Measuring the Information Society Report 2017, Israel has a vibrant and competitive mobile market. The privatization of incumbent operator Bezeq (now operating under the brand name Pelephone) started in 1991, followed by the opening of the mobile market to a second operator (Cellcom) in 1994. At the end of 2016, five mobile network operators and a number of MVNOs competed in the mobile market. These include MNOs Partner Communications, Hot Mobile, and Golan Telecom. The latter two entered the market in 2012 and are both owned by transnational French telecommunication groups. With their low-priced offers, they have been able to gain significant market shares and intensified competition between the operators. Mobile-broadband penetration is increasing, and above the European average. Operators continue to invest in 3G and LTE networks and 3G population coverage is almost complete.
A new mobile operator we4G was launched on April 10, 2018. According to Telegeography, Israel has a new mobile network operator in the form of 018 Xfone, which has launched services under the ‘We4G’ brand. The network went live today (10 April), and reportedly leverages network sharing agreements with incumbent cellcos Cellcom and Golan Telecom. According to a previous report by local news site Globes, the newcomer will be using the ‘051’ prefix previously assigned to Pelephone. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, 018 Xfone is a subsidiary of Marathon Telecom, which is itself controlled by Israeli businessman Hezi Bezalel. In January 2015 the telco agreed to pay a total of ILS33 million for a 5MHz block of spectrum in the 1800MHz band, and went on to receive the frequencies in August that year.
According to a report by Reuters regarding 5G:
Israel’s telecoms regulator unveiled plans on Thursday to publish a tender for fifth generation (5G) mobile networks in the first half of 2019, at a time when fierce competition has slashed profitability at local operators.
The Communications Ministry expects the tender in April or May, with the hope frequencies can be allocated by the end of 2019 and 5G can be launched between 2020 and 2023, the ministry’s director-general, Netanel Cohen, said.
He estimated a 5G network - which would be an additional layer on existing 4G networks - would cost around 2 billion shekels ($529 million).
The cost, though, may be too steep for operators, which are struggling to remain profitable in a country with 8.9 million people and nine mobile providers.
He said only the six main mobile operators would be eligible to bid for 5G licences, leaving out the three virtual operators. Since there are only three networks in Israel - owned by Cellcom , Partner Communications and Bezeq unit Pelephone - companies will be encouraged to join forces and bid together.
Raz-Dror said operators would not be required to deploy 5G in all of the country but would have to move away from 3G and improve 4G networks.