Up until a few years ago, Israel had only three mobile phone companies (“Pelephone”, “Cellcom” and “Orange”). Those three companies kept the prices high, the service mediocre, and were basically cash cows for their owners.
Then, the minister of communications at the time enforced a consumer’s revolution, and added two new mobile phone companies into the mix, along with several MVNO (“virtual”) companies. The prices spiraled down, with a tense competition that still rages on to this day.
The customer service, unfortunately, is still mediocre, even worse than before. With most companies, if you try to get a customer rep on the phone, you’ll have to wait for quite some time.
The prices and sales change almost everyday, so there’s almost no point in trying to document them here – in general, you’ll pay between 40-60 shekels (monthly) for the “unlimited” plans. Depending on the company, these plans sometimes include unlimited international calls (but mostly to landline number, and not mobile numbers).
- “Unlimited” Plans aren’t really unlimited at all. The unlimited part refers mostly to the talk minutes and SMS messages (though even those aren’t really “unlimited”, but are measured as ‘fair use’ – if you talk “too much” in your company’s eyes, they might cut you off). The internet data quota, however, is capped, depending on your plan. The cheaper plans usually include 1GB of data (monthly), and the higher-priced plans include 3-6GB. Once you use up your monthly quota, your surfing speed will either be slowed down considerably, or cut off completely, depending on the company.
- There are no contracts or obligations – you can switch companies at any point and keep your number. The actual switch usually takes a few hours. When you move to a new company, you have to get a new SIM card, which usually costs around 49 shekels. You can often find special sales that offer free SIM cards.
- Keep in mind that the cheaper prices are considered “special” sales, usually for up to 1 year. After the year is over, your price might jump. At that point you can always switch to a new company (or ask for a new sale from your current company) – but you have to remember to do that.
- If you don’t need an “unlimited” plan, most companies also offer limited, “small” plans, with a fixed number of talk minutes (usually 60 minutes), and a very small amount of internet data. Hot Mobile even offers a plan for 0 shekels a month – you only pay for your actual usage. That’s a great plan if you need to “park” a line, or if you need a line for young children.
- Some of the companies offer additional perks and bonuses with your monthly plan – free internet connectivity for your hose (Hot Mobile), reduced-price mobile insurance (Rami Levy), etc’. Additionally, you might be able to get a special price if you get more than one line with the same company.
- Pre-paid, “pay as you go” plans are, in most cases, NOT cost-effective and should only be used if you need a temporary line.