Looking for Pre-paid in Israel

A few weeks ago, I was unexpectedly washed away by a wave of nostalgia – I recalled a first mobile phone in my family – the Big Black Monster from Motorola – back in the mid 90′s. I tried to remember some details and was very surprised to realize that this was a pre-paid plan device!

For those who don’t know, today there’s is almost no such thing in Israel as pre-paid mobile plan. One can hardly see any ads or promotions of such plans and they are never being offered by sales-persons of the MNO’s.

So I decided to make a little investigation and check what happens in the filed. I called three major operators and those were the results:

Partner / Orange

Orange BigTalk

At first the salesperson declared that he can’t provide me any information about pre-paid plans as “he isn’t dealing with the issue”. After I had insisted. he unwillingly read to me some conditions of an unnamed plan and couldn’t provide any additional details. So, I left him alone.

Cellcom

A funny story happened to me when I called Cellcom. The salesperson told me that she would transfer my call to ” a special center which is dealing with the pre-paid”. OK said I. The “Special center” answered me

cellcom Talkman

Cellcom Talkman

very nicely but in Arabic. Finally I’ve got some answers in Hebrew but the girl said she can’t provide me any specific details unless I’m an existing pre-paid subscriber. I exclaimed that I’ve a great desire to become one, but she couldn’t helpĀ and transferred me back to the sales. There I finally got some info about the pre-paid option.

Pelephone

Pelephone seems to have the most developed pre-paid option. The salesperson wasn’t even surprised that I was asking about pre-paid, though he tried to convince me to change my mind and sign a contract.

Pelephone IZI

Pelephone IZI

He provided me a detailed information (which wasn’t matching the info on the website – but he assured me that I can trust him. Pelephone offers 5 different handsets (compared to 1 only in Cellcom) and it’s also the only carrier to offer 3G service on with pre-paid plan.

Comparative table of the operators:

Orange / Partner
Bigtalk
Cellcom
Talkman
Pelephone
IZI
Handset Nokia 2600 Motorola Z3 Motorola L7
Samsung R500
Samsung R510
Airtime ILS 0.71 within the network

ILS 0.91 to other networks

ILS 0.47 to all networks ILS 0.69 to all networks
SMS N/A ILS 0.40

(package of 80 for ILS 20)

ILS 0.48
3G NO NO YES

* Interesting how it’s possible – such a high termination rate is prohibited by the regulator

The next step was to what is the market segmentation according to the official figures. It turned out that our operators don’t publish this kind of statistics. the only official figures available are that of Partner. It says that it has about 28% prepaid customers.

At fist sight 28% seems to be too much as in the Jewish sector practically nobody uses pre-paid nowadays. However, considering the fact that I was answered in Arabic in Cellcom’s pre-paid call center and remembering ads of pre-paid plans aimed at foreign workers I came to a different conclusion.

The pre-paid segment in Israel is significantly smaller than in other developing / developed countries (more than 40% in OECD) and it’s highly concentrated amongst Arab population and foreign workers. The first probably use it as a cheaper option to call. While the foreign workers which are in many cases illegal, use it in order not to reveal their identity to the authorities.

After all, there is still a question why the pre-paid doesn’t used by the entire population and most and foremost by its natural consumers – youth and low socio-economic groups.

In my opinion, the answer is dual. First, the mobile operators in Israel succeeded in educating the audience to sign long contracts heavily subsidizing the devices (until recently 36-months long contracts were the only available). So, people just don’t familiar enough with the pre-paid option.

Secondly, the average mobile customer in Israel talks a lot (about 350 MOU) – much more then his/her global counterpart. Moreover, he is ready to pay for this. I’m sure that many customers simply don’t look for the most beneficial options.

Summarizing this long but (hopefully) interesting post, I wan;t only to say that despite the fact I use a contract phone I would prefer to see a more diversified market which offers pre-paid options too.

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19 Responses to Looking for Pre-paid in Israel

  1. stavik says:

    wow. Quite a research. It is very bizar that there are no real options for prepaid tariffs these days in Israel.
    I believe that it should be more regulated, becase it is for the benefit of the customer to have multiple options.

  2. oded says:

    what is the advantage for the customer in using pre-paid over post-paid ?
    (there are post-paid plans with zero monthly fee)

  3. mic222 says:

    One advantage for consumers is cost control. Think of parents who want to limit their children spending. In addition, in some countries one can buy a pre-paid starter kit in convenience stores.
    As far as I know pre-paid is also beneficial for the operators – it expands profit margins

  4. Lauren says:

    I just looked up the prepaid plans on the Orange and Cellcom websites and got very different numbers:
    First of all, there are peak and off-peak times. Peak is Sunday- Thursday, 0600 (6 am) to 1800 (6 pm), and off-peak is Sunday-Thursday , 1800 until 0600 (6 am) the next morning, plus Friday, Saturday night, and night until 6 am after the Jewish Sabbath and holidays.
    Cellcom: 77 agorot/minute peak, 99/agorot minute off-peak. 80 sms messages for 20 shekels per month.

    Orange: 79 agorot/minute peak, 99/agorot minute off-peak. 52 agorot/sms, but there are sms cards it seems that the messages are 25 agorot/message.

    I did not look into Pelephone.

  5. stavik says:

    Well Lauren, it seem very likely that those plan you saw only reflect a few of the prepaid offers.The prices you mention are certainly unattractive… but even more aggresive offers such as the offers Michael has posted are ridiculous…
    The prepaid market here is way too underdeveloped.

  6. mic222 says:

    I personally think that prices listed on the website are just not up to date. Israeli carriers don’t try to hard to present specific prices on their websites, This is especially true when dealing with prepaid

  7. Lauren says:

    Does anyone know how I can get specific prices? I’ve emailed the companies, but they redirect me to their website.

  8. mic222 says:

    Regularly, the communication with mobile operators in Israel is done by phone. So, this is is best way – you will get the most up to date prices.
    As you saw there is a difference between prices listed on the websites and those I was given at call centers.

  9. Geneva says:

    Hi!

    thank you for your excellent article. I have a question that I am sure other travelers to Israel may have:

    - is there a pre-paid 3G internet access in Israel ?
    - Can it be purchased on the spot or does it require a permanent address in Israel?
    - if it exists? which company (Pelephone i guess)? at which cost?

    Thank You a lot

  10. mic222 says:

    Hi,

    thanks for the compliments.

    As I wrote Pelephone (CDMA) offers pre-paid 3G access. In addition Orange (Partner) has also recently launched 3G service on the bigtalk cards.

    I don’t have the exact information about data transfer rates on pre-paid. I think it will be best to ask the salesperson. To give some proportion, a standard data package of 100 MB for contract customers (3G, not 3.5G) is ILS 20, which is less than EUR 4. I guess pre-piad packages are more expensive.

    As far as I know, there shouldn’t be any problem to buy a pre-paid SIM without a permanent address.

  11. Mark says:

    Does anyone have any further details on buying a pay-as-you-go sim in Israel and accessing the internet?

    Which company/s offers it?

    Whats the cost?

    Thanks.

  12. Daniel says:

    Cellcom also offers 3G Internet at 129 Shekels for unlimited internet. The funny thing about it is, the regular talkman sales people have no clue about it but their internet department is the one that told me and set it up for me

  13. stavik says:

    Its pretty funny though that’s reality since 129 is a lot to pay for mobile surfing thats just not a bellow the line offer that is being sold to mass customers. These offers only exist for a spesific audience willing to pay a lot of money.

    • LK says:

      Hi, what is the alternative? I am going to visit your country in about 10 days. As I spent 3 weeks in IL, a 3G package for one month sounds ideal for my needs. Is this Cellcom package for 129 ILS 3G internet access? If I go to some shop at the airport in Tel Aviv or city center and ask for this card, will I get one? How do I set up this internet package? (I am asking because Daniel said, they wouldn’t know.)
      If you still have, could you please send me the information, that you sent Mark?

      Many thanks for your article.

      LK

  14. person Y says:

    hii , is cellcom internet is unlimited ???
    i wanna to buy internet from cellcom (cost 129 ILS ) , but is there any limit such as downloading package limit or speed limit ???
    thank you

  15. sue says:

    Hi,

    I am wanting to buy a prepaid sim card to use with my regular cell phone when i come to israel. how do i do this? where are the stores to buy a prepaid sim card in israel?

  16. I’ve been checking prepaid options on the street in the past couple of months (Jan-Feb, 2010) and it’s a catastrophy:
    There are very few shops where you can actually get a prepaid SIM.
    The cellular service centers are always full of people and you can find yourself waiting there for an hour for a prepaid SIM card.
    Pelephone has only 3.5G SIM cards, so a standard cellular phone will not do.
    Call prices are actually higher than 1 NIS per minute.
    On Cellcom, charging doesn’t give you full talk time. For example, if you charge 55NIS, you get 50NIS talk time. I haven’t check Pelephone and Orange in that respect.

    VirtualFlavius

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