Digital World: Israel, the telecom ‘continent’

With mobile devices sales really set to shoot up in the coming months companies in Israel’s telecom industry are in the right place, at the right time!

To the many feathers in Israel’s hi-tech cap, you can add telecommunications: the business of connecting people on the phone.
Just how important is Israel’s telecom business?
When the GSM Association – sponsors of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the world’s premier telecom show – hands out awards, it splits the world into four regions, presenting top prizes to the world’s best cellphone technologies and applications made by companies that hail from each region. Two companies are chosen from each region: the Americas (North and South), Asia Pacific (India, Korea, Singapore, etc.), EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) – and Israel. Like a medieval map of the world showing Jerusalem as its center, Israel is considered to be a telecom continent all its own!
Israel’s “isolation” in this case has nothing to do with anti-Semitism; it’s because Israel’s telecommunications industry is so dynamic, chock-full of so many good ideas and technologies, it wouldn’t be fair to include us with any other international grouping.
Too many of the great ideas coming out of Israel would get lost in the shuffle if we didn’t have our own standing, and the other countries competing against us in the grouping wouldn’t stand a chance. To celebrate the emergence of Israel as a world telecom development center, the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute, together with event organizers innaMotion, will be holding Innovation 2010 – The Israel Telecom Mobile Brokerage Event. They will be bringing top officials of a dozen foreign telecom companies to Israel for three days of fun, food and, hopefully, deal-making. The conference takes place next week, October 26-28.
Although Israeli companies are at the forefront of telecom development, many of the ones that develop products here have a hard time getting the attention of international players, says Roy On of the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute.
“Although the telecommunication industry is a very focused market, the limited sales and marketing expertise of many local vendors, along with getting access to the decision makers in foreign companies, makes closing deals very difficult,” he says.
“Innovation will make the experience of doing business with Israel into fun and full of value to the carrier and the vendor,” thus cementing Israel’s position as a top telecom power.
As part of the event, Israel will be hosting top officials from some of the world’s largest telecom companies in Europe and the Far East – including from China Mobile, which has over half a billion subscribers. Other carriers set to attend include China Telecom Group, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Jaawal, MTS, NRJ Mobile, Orange France Telecom, P4 PlayMobile, Telecom Italia (TIM), Telekom Serbia, Vivacom and Vodafone.
In a unique approach, the visitors won’t just see Israel from the inside of a stuffy hotel conference room; they’ll be traveling around to different venues, including Old Jaffa, Jerusalem and a full-day tour of the North, seeing the sites and visiting Israeli hitech companies at their home bases.
Potential customers will also get a chance to meet with vendors and evaluate their sales pitches, with a grand contest to be held on the last day, where the top products will be chosen and – program organizers hope – purchased by the visitors. The Export Institute and innaMotion are working with vendors to make sure they put their best foot forward, given that they’ve got a unique chance to impress an audience with some of the deepest pockets in the telecom world.
More than 40 Israeli companies will be represented at the conference, many of which have made a name for themselves in the industry, including:
• Waze, which is building a social network revolving around traffic tips, along with a road-mapping feature that’s much more useful and accurate than Google Maps’s imho;
• My6Sense, which makes an excellent social-media aggregator for the iPhone, letting you control your Facebook, Twitter and other posts;
• Worldmate, whose application keeps travelers on top of their itineraries;
• MeCanto, an innovative service that puts your music in the cloud and lets you listen to it on your phone, wherever and whenever.
According to the Export Institute, there some 600 companies in Israel’s telecom sector. Considering Israel’s population of about 7 million, that works out to one telecomsector company for every 11,000 people – a pretty high rate, by anyone’s criteria.
Considering that Israel has one of the world’s highest penetration of cellphone use per capita, it makes sense that telecom would be a major hi-tech industry here.
That, along with the defense-related nature of much telecommunications work, guarantees that Israel is going to be responsible for some amazing telecom developments.
Just how well is the sector doing? In 2008, telecom companies were responsible for $12 billion in exports – half of Israel’s hi-tech exports and 15 percent of Israel’s total exports of $80b.
Experts say the sector is only going to grow. In a recent interview with the Israel Investment Newsletter, Gemini’s Carmel Sofer said Israel has been responsible for some of the most dramatic cellphone innovations out there.
“We’re now witnessing the emergence of the mobile Internet, and this is coming from Israel,” he said. “The mobile phone is no longer being looked at just for its voice capabilities; it’s being considered as a data device. Many are trying to take Web applications and make them work on the phone.
Those companies – and many of them are located in Israel – who can start developing mobile applications from the ground up, as they look how users will interact with the Mobile Internet, are going to be the winners.”
With sales of mobile devices – especially smart phones – really set to shoot up in the coming months (thanks to continued strong iPhone sales, and especially to the phenomenal growth of Android-platform phones), companies in Israel’s telecom industry are in the right place, at the right time!