Cell Phone at the Supermarket? You Can Save Big

by Brian on May 18, 2012

in In the News

YouPhone is one of the new cellular carriers hitting the Israeli market

Israelis won’t be saying “hallo” on their cell phones, but that doesn’t mean low prices aren’t coming.

A few weeks ago, a much-rumored new discount-priced Israeli cellular phone company called Hallo dropped its plans to launch after it emerged the company didn’t have the contacts in place it needed to operate . The company had promised an incredible deal – NIS 99 for unlimited talk time, unlimited messages and 2 GB of data surfing. A similar offer at one of the big three carriers – Orange, Cellcom and Pelephone, would cost at least double that.

But this week, three new operators hit the market with innovative pricing that will further shake up the cell phone market in Israel.

One of the new guys, Golan Telecom has the exact same attractive pricing that Hallo promised (note: according to its website, the plan now includes unlimited data). Another, HOT Mobile, has a fee structure includes unlimited talk and text for just NIS 89 – NIS 10 less than Golan – but doesn’t include data in the price.

HOT Mobile also has a plan for “light users” – no monthly fee at all, then 10 agorot per minute and the same per text message and per megabyte of Internet access. Golan’s light user plan costs NIS 10 a month and includes 60 minutes of talk time, 60 text messages and 10 megabytes of Internet access. The third operator, YouPhone, will be charging NIS 18 a month, then 18 agorot per minute of talk time and 15 agorot for messages. Internet will also be 15 agorot per megabyte.

The different packages for each carrier sound confusing, but they’re actually a bit clearer (although not much) than the traditional cell phone deals which include x number of minutes free to other subscribers on the same network, another package of minutes to family and friends, discounts if you bought a phone via the carrier and speak at least 200 minutes a month…it got so confusing that Orange, one of the big three, came out with its own “clear” package that sets a base price of NIS 69 (and as a result, the cost of purchasing the phone through the company listed is listed separately).

If you’re a heavy mobile Internet user, HOT Mobile’s offer of 10 agorot per megabyte can add up. 2 GB = NIS 200, so the NIS 99 all you can eat package is a much better deal. If your Internet usage is less – say 250 MB a month like me, that’s only NIS 25. If you then talk 200 minutes a month and send, say, 100 text messages, that’s another NIS 30/month, making the combined price less than at the big carriers.

YouPhone’s doesn’t offer a more expensive package with a higher data level, so if you like to surf on-the-go, stick with Golan or HOT.

Perhaps the most intriguing element – at least for immigrants with strong ties to the “old country” – is Golan’s offer of free overseas calling to landlines in 29 countries and free calls to both landlines and mobile numbers in the U.S. and Canada.

On the other hand, YouPhone has a deal with the Mega chain of supermarkets and Alon gas stations (the same holding company owns all three) so that if you buy groceries or gas, you get free minutes. For every NIS 100 customers spend, they will receive 10 minutes of airtime at no charge, up to a maximum of 200 minutes per month per customer. The idea is that talking on the phone is as much a necessity as eating and traveling in your car, but that pricing brings us back to the familiar complexity the new companies seem to have been trying to avoid.

The Rami Levy supermarket chain and the Home Center DIY chain have their own cell services too – these are based on the concept of “mobile virtual network operators” (or MVNO’s), a fancy way for saying that these new guys buy time from the existing carriers, piggybacking for a price on the antennas and infrastructure already built.

If you want a full service cellular carrier with a proper office and repair facility, you won’t get that with the newbies – YouPhone and Rami Levy are using their supermarkets and gas stations to sell their services and Golan has just a bare bones website – they’ll send you a SIM card in the mail. There isn’t even an email address or phone currently listed.

The bottom line: if you’re willing to shop around, you can save a lot in the new cellular landscape. And that’s good news for competition. Now if only it would extend to cottage cheese.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: