Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel on Tuesday authorized several Israeli telecommunications companies to start using 5G internet technology.
The development is expected to enable Israeli citizens to enjoy faster internet service and improved cellular infrastructure with immediate effect.
Despite its vibrant tech sector, Israel has lagged behind such countries as Switzerland, South Korea, Britain and Spain, which have already started to roll out 5G services, which are at least 10 times faster than the 4G currently in use.
Also, there are currently only three devices sold in Israel that support 5G technology — RealMe X50 Pro, Xiaomi Poco F2 Pro, and Xiaomi Mi 10 — which means that it will take considerable time until large numbers of Israelis are able to enjoy the new development.
The firms that won the government tender have already deployed over 200 5G antennas each, Eran Bar-Oz, a spokesman for the ministry, said, although much of the network still needs to be deployed nationally. Each firm will have to deploy the antennas at some 2,500 sites in highly populated areas, he said.
“This is a start,” Bar-Oz said by phone. “We hope Israel will now catch up with other global nations and make up for the delay.”
The cellphone companies currently authorized are Pelephone, a subsidiary of Bezeq, Partner Communications Co,, and Hot Mobile, which won a government tender.
In a statement announcing the development, Hendel said that “we are in the midst of one of the most severe crises that have hit Israel. Most social processes during the coronavirus are bases on communications infrastructure and can only be held with advanced infrastructure. Such a crisis requires us to move to advanced infrastructure and ultra-fast internet for everybody.
“This is a revolution that will move Israel forward and turn vision into reality,” Hendel added. “5G technology is capable of things most Israeli citizens cannot imagine.”
Pelephone announced that its 5G will be available Tuesday at 250 stations nationwide, for compatible devices.
“This is just the beginning and we will continue to invest in the development of the network in the coming years,” Pelephone CEO Ran Guron said in the communications ministry statement.
Hot Mobile also said that it was launching 5G commercial services, offering customers data packages on their cellphones of up to 1,000 gigabytes (1 terabyte). The firm has deployed the network at 250 sites and is expected to expand the network with further investment of tens of millions of shekels, Hot said in a separate statement on Tuesday.
Partner and Hot Mobile hailed the development as “historic.”
5G networks are touted as promising an exponential leap in the amount and speed of wireless data delivery, enabling advances in self-driving vehicles, virtual reality, connected health and more as sensors and servers communicate nearly instantly.
The deployment of the 5G network in Israel “is still insignificant,” said Ilanit Sherf, head of research at Psagot Securities, an institutional investor. “They need to deploy a network that is different from the 4G network. We are talking about deploying a whole new network.”