Bezeq

Israeli telco’s green light for 200Mbps internet

16 July 2020 | Melanie Mingas

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Israel’s largest telecoms group, Bezeq Israel Telecom, has received the green light to deliver internet speeds of up to 200 megabits per second.

According to sources, the development followed the receipt of “long-awaited” regulatory approval from the Communications Ministry to provide speeds higher than 100 Mbps. However Bezeq still falls short of its closest rivals.

The cable company HOT offers speeds of up to 500 Mbps while Israel’s largest MNOs, Cellcom and Partner Communications, are deploying fibre networks with speeds up to 1 gigabit per second.

Bezeq’s own fibre plans have caused friction with the regulator for some years. While the telco said it has invested “tens of millions of shekels” in infrastructure upgrades since 2018 – connecting more than 1.5 million households – the regulator wanted it to expand further to cover rural areas.

Bezeq, like many in a similar position, deemed the requirement financially unfeasible, but over the last few months, the Communications Ministry revised its plans and reduced the demand to 70% coverage, with smaller firms allowed to bid for the remaining work.

As witnessed in other countries, Covid highlighted the importance of high-quality connectivity and eventually tipped the balance.

Bezeq CEO David Mizrahi, said: “This reality sharpens the need for a high-quality and stable internet infrastructure capable of delivering high browsing speeds.”

Despite the progress on this front, Bezeq remains in limbo regarding plans to merge its main land-line infrastructure with its mobile phone, internet and satellite TV units. A government panel this week rejected the plans following concerns around the market dominance of the new entity. The regulatory approach is consistent with that taken for HOT, which has stated similar intentions, however there is scope for a u-turn in future.

Bezeq could be allowed to merge its subsidiaries Pelephone, Bezeq International and YES on a smaller scale.

The decision is not binding and the government panel told regulators it would still assess future proposals “in light of changes in the market”.