Cellular network provider Cellcom said Thursday it would raise its prices in January, following the lead of competitor Pelephone which announced earlier this week a similar rate hike set for the new year.
Pelephone said the decision to raise prices was influenced by the rate of inflation this year, the depreciation of the shekel against the dollar and the impending second round of government induced cuts to the fee that companies can charge for calls made to other networks.
In a notice to its customers published in the media, Cellcom said that beginning January 1 customers with fixed plans would pay 59 agorot per minute in peak times and 96 agorot in off peak, while those on the basic plan would pay 65 agorot per minute in peak hours and 96 agorot for off peak times.
The company said its family bonuses would not be affected, and neither would its rates for sending text and picture messages and downloading from the Internet.
In a similar manner, Pelephone plans to raise its rates by on average 4 percent for subscribers to certain monthly packages.
Beginning January 2, prices would rise by NIS 4.70 for the fixed monthly rate or by 4 agorot per minute, depending on the package they subscribe to, the company said.
Pelephone said some of its SMS (text messaging) packages also would be affected with a 3.5% increase.
Of the two remaining operators, Mirs said it was considering an increase but that no decision had been made regarding the nature of the hike or a timetable for it.
, which operates the Orange cellular network, said it had no plans to raise its rates.
Both companies, however, are expected to follow Pelephone and Cellcom before March when the interconnect fee is scheduled to be cut from 32 agorot to 29 agorot.
The Communications Ministry has embarked on a program to reduce the fee charged by one cellular phone operator to complete the call of a rival from 45 agorot to 22 agorot by 2008.
The first cuts took effect March 1 this year, dropping from 45 to 32 agorot and prompting the previous rate hikes by all four cellular companies in an attempt to offset their expected losses from the reduced fees.
The cellular companies have fought the program, estimating that for every agora cut, the cellular industry loses NIS 70m.