Landlines in Israel
In the past decade, Israel has undergone a revolution in the telephone industry, and while there was only one landline provider in the mid-2000s, there now exist more than six landline providers, with more every year.
There are three different categories of landline infrastructure in Israel, each with its pros and cons:
- Physical Landlines (Bezeq): Originally the sole telephone provider in Israel, Bezeq provides the only physical landline infrastructure in the country. Many view Bezeq as the most reliable service in the market. Their landlines do not require electricity, and will continue to work in a power outage.
- Cable Landlines (HOT): HOT provides a landline over its cable infrastructure, and as such will usually bundle their service at a discount with internet or cable TV. While HOT landlines do not require internet access to function, they do need running electricity, and will be useless in a power outage.
- Voice over Broadband (VOB) Landlines: Using a relatively new technology that allows phone calls to be made via a high-speed internet connection, many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer a VOB landline at dramatically low prices. The technology is still maturing and is sometimes prone to issues of quality, but it is consistently improving.
Call rates vary among service providers, some charging a monthly fee, some per minute, and some based on peak (זמן שיא) and offpeak (זמן שפל) hours. In addition, there might be different rates between calls to other landlines, cellphones, and fax machines. In Israel, all incoming calls are free.
There is usually a one-time fee for setting up a landline phone. In addition, providers usually charge extra for services such as voicemail and caller ID.
We suggest using a plan comparison site to determine which provider and phone plan to choose.
Israeli Mobile Phone Plans
In the last few years, Israel has undergone a “cellular revolution” with new legislation and the introduction of new mobile phone companies and virtual providers.
Cellphone Plans and Contracts
There are a myriad of prepaid and postpaid plans in Israel, including “pay-as-you-go” and unlimited usage choices. It is suggested you use a plan comparison website to choose the plan that is right for you. Additionally, as of 2012, it is Illegal in Israel to have a long-term contract, so if you don’t like your provider, you can switch whenever you want.
Some companies offer additional services, like conference calling, international dialing, and local and international virtual numbers, either free or for additional cost, so it pays to do your research.
Most cellular providers offer discounts for students, soldiers, and Olim Chadashim, and sales representatives often have the ability to negotiate your costs. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount!
Phones and SIM Cards
All cellphone companies in Israel rely on SIM cards, which you can pick up at a store or have shipped to online. There is usually a one-time fee for purchasing a SIM card.
Furthermore, this means you can use previously owned devices on your carrier of choice, as long as it supports the carrier’s network bands. You might need to get your phone unlocked, approximately 200 NIS at any phone kiosk, for it to be compatible.
If you don’t have a cellphone yet, you can purchase one upfront or via your cellular provider for a monthly fee. However, as most cellular companies mark up phone prices dramatically (sometimes by as much as 150 percent!), we highly recommended avoiding them. If you do not have the money to buy a phone upfront from a brick-and-mortar store, you can choose to pay in tashlumim – up to 36 monthly payments – for the same effect.
There are three major cellular networks in Israel, that cover the majority of the country:
- Cellcom: Cellular bands 850/1800/2100.
- Orange: Cellular bands 900/1800/2100.
- Pelephone: Cellular bands 850/2100.
As of 2012, two more cellular providers were given permission to build independent networks. While they build their infrastructure, users share cellular bands with the more established networks.
- Golan Telecom: Cellular bands 850 (Cellcom)/900 (Orange)/1800 (Cellcom & Orange)/2100 (Independent network + Cellcom/Orange)
- HOT Mobile: Cellular bands 850 (Orange & Pelephone)/900 (Orange)/1800 (Orange)/2100 (Independent network + Orange/Pelephone).
In addition, there are 4 virtual cellular carriers (MVNOs), which rely entirely on the networks of the more established phone companies:
- 012 Mobile – Uses Orange’s network.
- Home Cellular – Uses Cellcom’s network.
- Rami Levi Communications – Uses Pelephone’s network.
- YouPhone – Uses Orange/Pelephone’s network.
As of 2014, none of the cellular networks offer 4G support. However, many companies are actively working to bring this option to market.