Israel’s Communications Ministry on Wednesday issued a tender to operate fourth-generation, or 4G, mobile phone networks that will enable users to upload and download content at three-to-five times current speeds.
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“Fourth-generation services will make possible advanced services and applications at high speeds. The new network will propel Israel forward while delivering innovative services,” said Communications Minister Gilad Erdan.
Five mobile operators now operate 3G networks. But there are not enough frequencies in 4G to support all of them, and the cost of developing frequencies is very high, the ministry said in a statement. As a result, the ministry will allow operators to share networks.
There will be at least three cellular operators in the 4G market, and all of them will have to deploy their networks equally both in the center of the country and in peripheral areas.
Any entity with capital of at least 100 million shekels ($29 million) can participate in the tender. Sept. 28 is the deadline to submit proposals.
While Israel was among the first countries to move to 3G in 2000, the transition to 4G has been delayed by bureaucracy at the Communications Ministry, which failed to allocate frequencies, and the reluctance of the mobile operators to invest in new networks, which will cost in the range of $100 million.
As a result, Israeli mobile users have very low Internet speeds of 5.6 megabits per second, compared with 25.8 megabits per second in New Zealand, which boasts the world’s fastest speeds. The global Net Index ranks Israel 63rd for mobile speeds.
Israel’s three largest mobile operators — Cellcom Israel, Partner Communications and Bezeq unit Pelephone — have been engaged in a price war since a
shake-up of the Israeli mobile industry two years ago that doubled the number of competitors. Two of the new competitors — Golan Telecom and Hot Mobile, which is owned by French cable group Altice — have their own infrastructure.
In May, Cellcom announced a 4G network-sharing agreement with Golan, and Partner said it received anti-trust approval for a network sharing agreement with Hot. Partner has already begun developing its 4G network, while Cellcom and Pelephone only recently chose equipment suppliers for theirs.