Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Israel Cellphone Plan Comparison - The Israeli Cellphone Revolution 2012 - 5772

Since my article in February and the entry of Rami Levy, the change in the cellular marketplace has been nothing short of incredible - some would call it revolutionary. Not only have we been rid of those ridiculous one-sided contracts but prices have come down, and in a big way. With the addition of new players such as HOT, Golan Telecom and YouPhone, the future looks bright for the cellular consumer. The last step in this cellular revolution will be the opening of the cellphone device market to more players - as we say in this country "BimHera BeYameynu".

First Things First
With all this competition what should you do as a consumer? The first thing I suggest you do, before you have even investigated any of the new plans, is to call your existing provider and request (demand!!!!) the best deal to keep you as a customer. Remember, if you have a phone device as part of your plan, you will most probably lose the credit that you have been enjoying until now and you will need to pay the remaining (over-priced) amount until the end of the contract. Even with the loss of the credit, you should still find a reduction in your overall cellphone bill.

The Plans - Unlimited vs. Per Minute/SMS
There are two major types of plans available on the marketplace; a fixed monthly amount for an "unlimited" package or a per minute/per sms plan. The type of plan that you negotiate & decide on, will depend largely on your calling needs. The "unlimited" plans give you unlimited calling, unlimited SMS and some form of "unlimited" (with limits) internet surfing.

For those who know that they will be calling & SMS'ing less than 88 shekels a month, then the per minute/SMS plans may be better suited for you.

Drop your Land Line & Save Further
If you are going to go with an unlimited plan you may want to consider cancelling your land line. You can now get an "Internet only" phone line at no cost from Bezeq, and then all you need to pay for is for the internet connection (75-105 NIS per month) to maintain your internet service to your house (for Bezeq ADSL users). By cancelling your land line service you will be saving another 45 NIS per month or more by not using a Bezeq phone line for your calls.

I have been asked by many people how do the various operators compare on service. I have not conducted any studies in this area, but you may find articles now and then in the Israeli press about the long wait times and the over agressive customer service rep's. My assumption is that the service provided by all the operators is uniformly sub-par if you have the time to waste waiting on hold. Therefore you should take service out of the equation when making a decision about which plan to purchase. Do not use the friendly sales rep as a proxy of how after sales service will perform.

Internet Surfing
With the advent of the various "smart phones" in the marketplace, data plans have become the new hot service offered by the operators. Here again there are differences amongst the operators. The factors involved are the maximum amount of data transmission measured in Megabytes or Gigabytes and the speed at which the transmission is being made. Most of the unlimited plans offer 1 Gigabyte of data at the high speed and then after that, the speed begins to drop. Of course if you are a heavy user of data then you can purchase upgraded data plans which offers more data at higher speeds. When in doubt, read the small print. This is where all the info is.

Long Distance
Another interesting service being offered by some of the operators (as part of their unlimited plans) is unlimited long distance.  For those of us who make lots of calls to places abroad this is another money saving opportunity.  Check with each of the operators, the countries they cover and whether contacting a cell phone in that country is covered within the plan.

The Players
The incumbents include: Pelephone, Orange and Cellcom.  The upstarts include: Ramy Levy, Golan Telecom, HOT Mobile, 012 Mobile, YouPhone

The Plans - Unlimited
Remember each of the plans, although they may come with a very heavy contract, must allow you to switch out at your request.  The only fee for switching to another operator will be payment for the remaining bill and a new SIM.

Operator Price* Surfing Limit Unlimited Long Distance Notes
Pelephone 99 1 Gigabyte No 99 NIS + 1NIS/day for Long Distance Min + 2 Gigabyte Surfing & Other features
Orange 125 500 Megabyte No 135 NIS for Intl Mins + 1 Gigabyte
Cellcom 119 1Gigabyte No 129 NIS for 200 Intl Mins + 2 Gigabyte
Ramy Levy 88 1 Gigabyte No Other Surfing Plans Available
Golan Telecom 99 3 Gigabyte Yes to specific countries
HOT Mobile 89 3 GigaByte No
HOT Mobile with Long Distance 99 3 GigaByte Yes to 20 Countries
012 Mobile 88 500 MegaByte Yes - Canada & US only,
Cell & Landline
98 NIS for 2 Gigabyte
YouPhone 59-109 1 GigaByte No Monthly Price depends on how much you spend with your You card

* Price - price per month in NIS, there is a charge from each of the operators for a Phone SIM when you join.

The Plans - Per Min/SMS

Operator Fee/Month Price/Min Price/SMS Surfing Notes

Orange 00.25 0.25 0.25/Megabyte ClearMax Plans
Cellcom 29.000.69 0.65 No
Ramy Levy (1) 17.90 0.17 0.15 0.12/Mbyte
Ramy Levy (2) 4.900.390.290.39/Mbyte
Golan Telecom 9.99 0.18 0.01 0.09/Mbyte Monthly Fee includes 60 min + 60 SMS + 10 Mbyte
HOT Mobile10.00 0.10 0.10 0.10/Mbyte Monthly Fee includes 50 min + 50 SMS + 50 Mbyte + 10 Min Long Distance
HOT Mobile 10 Agorot0 0.10 0.10 0.10/Mbyte
012 Mobile

No Plan Currently
YouPhone 18.000.18 0.15 0.15/Mbyte Monthly Price depends on how much you spend with your You card. ex.: 100 NIS = 10 Free Mins

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rami Levy vs. Cellcom - Round 1

Rami Levy
I just came back from moving my daughter's cellphone account from Cellcom to Rami Levy.  The entire process took 20 minutes and within 3.5 hours the number moved from Cellcom to Rami Levy as promised.  The primary motivation for the move was to reduce my cellphone bill but it also gave me a chance to experience the move and see if there are discernible differences between the service of Cellcom and Rami Levy.  After many years of living with the decreasing levels of service at the telecom incumbents, I no longer have any expectations that anyone is really interested in providing acceptable levels of service, so the move was primarily done to save some shekels.

I had been putting off the move for a number of months hoping that Cellcom would offer a competing product to Rami Levy and keep me from making the move (change is difficult at my age).  However when I saw my daughter's last cell phone bill I decided that the time had come to take some action.  Unfortunately it seems that Cellcom has too many things on its mind right now and competing with Rami Levy is not a priority for them.  I couldn't believe that a response to the upstart Rami Levy from the incumbents would be almost non-existent.

Before making the move, I made one last effort to see if Cellcom was interested in keeping me as a customer.  After waiting on hold for a Cellcom Representative for 15 minutes, I went through the typical song and dance of "let's see how you use your account", "pay this get that" and finally "do you have a soldier at home".  At the end of the first dance, I asked the rep whether he had heard of Rami Levy and their offer.  He said "yes".  Do you have a competing product to offer me? I asked.  The answer was "just a minute...".  After a further 10 minutes listening to Cellcom's elevator music a new rep got on the line.  He read the previous rep's report (which was written during my time on hold) and then began to offer me the same deals as the previous rep.  Needless to say, I had enough.  I told him that I wanted a simple answer (Yes or No) to a simple question - do you have a competing product to Rami Levi.  The answer was "No".

And so ended my relationship with Cellcom.  Rami Levy offers you the following:

One time Sim Fee: 39 shekels
Monthly fee: 14.95 NIS
Price per Minute: 20 Agorot
Price per SMS: 15 Agorot.

There are other services available such as Internet surfing however you have the option to turn this and other services off at time of registration.

You will need a phone that works on the 850 frequency (Nokia C2-01 - 490 NIS at Ivory).  Even if you don't live near a Rami Levy store, you can still sign up for a Rami Levi account at Ivory Computers.

We are living during interesting times and it will be interesting to see how the incumbents, with their heavy overheads, will deal with the upstarts.  Maybe change isn't as bad as I thought.