Israel’s 5G network began operating on Tuesday for the customers of the providers Partner, HOT Mobile, and Pelephone, who had won the frequency tender and met the conditions for receiving the license. Israel’s other major provider, Cellcom, which is yet to complete the licensing process, will receive its license only in the next quarter.
5G is the fifth generation technology standard for cellular networks, which cellular phone companies began deploying worldwide in 2019. It is the planned successor to the 4G networks which provide connectivity to most current cellphones. All 5G wireless devices in a cell are connected to the Internet and telephone network by radio waves through a local antenna in the cell. The main advantage of the new networks is that they have greater bandwidth, giving higher download speeds, eventually up to 10 gigabits per second (Gbit/s).
It is expected that the new networks will not serve only cellphones, but also be used as general internet service providers for laptops and desktop computers, competing with existing providers, with new applications in the internet of things (IoT) and machine to machine areas. 4G cellphones are not able to use the new networks.
The increased speed is achieved partly by using higher-frequency radio waves than current cellular networks. But higher-frequency radio waves have a shorter range, so to ensure wide service, 5G networks operate on up to three frequency bands, low, medium, and high, and a 5G network is composed of networks of up to 3 different types of cells, each requiring different antennas, each type giving a different tradeoff of download speed vs. distance and service area. 5G cellphones and wireless devices will connect to the network through the highest speed antenna within range at their location.
The spectrum used by 5G could cause interference to satellite operations which impairs numerical weather prediction performance, with substantial economic and public safety impacts in areas such as commercial aviation. These concerns prompted U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to urge the FCC in February 2019 to delay some spectrum auction proposals. Their plea was rejected.
The scientific consensus is that 5G technology is safe. But the approaching wide use of 5G technology has given rise to conspiracy theories suggesting it has an adverse effect on health. In 2019, 180 scientists from 36 countries wrote to the European Union requesting a pause on 5G rollout, because of their concerns about possible health risks. In April 2019, Brussels, Belgium blocked a 5G trial because of radiation laws. In Geneva, Switzerland, a planned upgrade to 5G was stopped for health concerns.
Several conspiracy theories circulating online claim there’s a link between the spread of the coronavirus and 5G. There have been dozens of arsons of telecom masts in the Netherlands, Ireland, Cyprus, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Italy, Croatia, and Sweden.
On Tuesday morning, Israel’s Ministry of Communications distributed the licenses to the winning companies in a ceremony on Zoom with Communications Minister Yoaz Handel, Ministry of Communications Director-General Liran Avishar Ben-Horin, members of the tender committee, and the CEOs of the winning companies.
The network has been available for some time, but the licensing will now allow the winning companies to sell access to their subscribers who own devices that support 5G.
The ministry has already awarded grants worth several hundred million shekels to the companies to encourage the enhanced distribution of the 5G network. But despite this hefty taxpayer support, the companies have not disclosed the map of their antennas’ deployment – except for Pelephone CEO Ran Gurion, who has announced that he would consider publicizing the locations of his company’s antennas. His company has published the list of 150 localities where there is at least one mobile site that supports 5G generation phones. They include Tel Aviv, Eilat, Arara, BS, Yeruham, Dimona, KS, Afula, Ginosar, Haifa and the Krayot, Herzliya, Jerusalem, and Hadera.
The three licensed companies in Israel have already started offering fifth generation consumer plans and selling devices. Pelephone is selling Wavy Router 5G and Shiomi Mi 10 and Foucault F2 Pro for NIS 1,899-2,999 ($548 – 866), including free delivery.
The Ministry of Communications announced that they would support local startups that would offer solutions using the 5th generation platform.