Telecom Revolution Reaches Abroad

Competition drives Israeli cell providers to lower prices on international plans.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

Anglos calling home, take note: Israel's shifting telecommunications landscape, with new players and a healthy dose of competition, is producing new options for unlimited calls abroad.

"The long-distance calling industry has been in decline for years," says Amitai Ziv, who covers technology and communications for The Marker. "This is due in large part to the crossover of calling minutes to Skype and because phone rates are continuing to fall."

Prior to this year, options for calling abroad almost exclusively involved international calling services such as 012 Smile, 013 Netvision and 014 Bezeq International, via cellular providers or calling cards. Now, with the advent of upstarts like Xphone (018 ) and Hallo (015 ), deals on calls to the United States can be found for as low as two cents per minute. Xphone also offers a deal of 80 monthly minutes for calls to the United States at a price of NIS 9.90, while other deals may be had for calls at a price between NIS 0.06 and NIS 0.11 per minute.

But the real harbingers of significant change for the Israeli international caller started with Golan Telecom and HOT Mobile, which have led the unlimited calling plans that appear to be fundamentally altering the Israeli cellular market, with other companies being forced to lower their rates as well, asserts Ziv. These two companies offer unlimited calling plans for under NIS 100.

The big three of Orange, Cellcom and Pelephone have followed suit, albeit with less attractive plans, all higher than NIS 100 (see chart ). However, for those who take Orange's NIS 270 a month plan for three cell phones, calls abroad to 42 countries are free, including to cellular phones in the United States and Canada.

At present, Cellcom and newcomers YouPhone, Rami Levy and Home Cellular offer no such unlimited calling packages.

With unlimited calling and data plans a standard offer today, it remains to be seen whether the addition of unlimited calling abroad will be the next frontier in the long-distance price war.

President Barack Obama talks on the phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the Oval Office, September 28, 2012.Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza