GSM and 3G networks in Israel are set for closure

Telecommunications has united the world, but in some countries like Israel, it’s set to be replaced by newer technologies. Before we delve into the current landscape, it might be helpful to understand the history of telecommunications and how it has evolved.

In the very beginning, 2G was the innovative data service provider that gave the masses digital encryption and was succeeded by 3G. The speed that game with 3G networks boosted the acceptance of the digital landscape, supplementing use of data by smartphones.

The implementation of 4G and the subsequent 5G made working from home a reality as high speed internet is no longer something that is only accessible at the office. It also has a bigger capacity for hosting several devices all at once, something that is a modern necessity, considering the amount of electronic devices that we use. From smartphones down to smarthomes – the invasion of digital technology is almost complete.

Israel has one of the most sophisticated telecommunications technologies in the Middle East, consisting of coaxial cables, optical fibers, and microwave radio relay. This was supported by Bezeq, a government monopoly which also benefited the country with their comprehensive development of the telecommunication sector. In the 1990s, it transitioned into diversified private holdings in order to encourage competition, and true enough, Israel has one of the cheapest mobile plans around the world.

Israel has been the telecom industry leader on a global scale, pioneering developments such as WiMAX, VoIP, and TDMoiP. Clearly, there has been no lack of innovation on their part, and in the mid 2000s, the country’s production of telecommunications supplies placed them as the leading force in technological research. Their products gave Israel the edge that they needed to position themselves as industry leaders in various fields such as medical, biotechnology, agriculture, and has even attracted investors from across the globe in their cyber-security industry, all due to their robust telecoms sector on top of their thriving unicorn startup culture.

The development and integration of 5G, which was announced in 2016, will move to close down GSM and 3G networks as the physical assets are repurposed for LTE and 5G. Israel officially rolled out 5G in September 2020, fuelled by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic as more and more people are required to work from home due to lockdowns. The progress that has been made in the name of connectivity has also expedited the progress of the closure of GSM and 3G in Israel, which is set for 2025.

As of the 1st of January 2022, the Communications Ministry of Israel has banned the import of mobile phones that do not support 5G or LTE networks and announced that the country will cease operations for older telecommunication technologies by the following year, though it will not be until 2025 will operations fully cease for 2G and 3G.

Consumers are under pressure to make the switch amid the financial burden that numerous Israelis are under due to lockdowns and a suppressed economy. Authorities are aware of the large-scale job losses which severely impacted the nation, stating that this progression will further propel Israel into the future. The Communications Minister Yoaz Handel was quoted as saying, “We are leading the State of Israel toward a new era in the field of communications infrastructure…Around the world, old technologies have been shut down in order to free up broadcast frequencies – which are a limited resource – in favor of advanced technologies. The process will be gradual and allow those who need to, to make the necessary technological adjustments.”

With the intention for 5G to become the dominant technology in Israel, government officials will also try to make the transition as painless as possible. It is always challenging to replace technologies and while some resistance may be met, this course of action is most beneficial for the progress of Israel, after suffering the effects of long-term lockdowns and border closure, which has affected their nation severely as much of their economy was sustained largely by tourism, whether for business or pleasure.

Telecom operators are also affected by this announcement and will have to foray into the latest technologies or disperse into various industries that will be rebuilt in the coming years. However, reports predict that with the accelerated speeds of 5G, obvious effects would be increased work productivity, higher levels of communication at better quality, remote operation and automation efficiency will be at an all time high, and data sharing will become instantaneous. 

Web 3.0 is the next stage in the evolution of the Internet. IoT, VOIP, and related technologies will benefit immensely with the introduction of 5g which offers superior speed with very low latency. This would ultimately lead to the development of the web 3.0 ecosystem.

Problematic situations that are still hampering the adaptation of 5G are company mergers. As mentioned earlier, telecommunications was disseminated amongst numerous companies in order to encourage competition, but mergers are crucial in order to expedite the rolling out of 5G networks. It has become a dilemma for the Communications Ministry, which has allowed one merger between Cellcom and Golan Telecom, but rejected Hot and Partner’s proposal.

About the Author
Justin Doebe is the President of Nevelis Media. Justin is interested in Israel's startup ecosystem and aims to share his insights learnt from expanding to and managing business in Israel.
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