5G Internet networks, which were launched in Israel in September and should be widespread here within two to four years, will accelerate the digital transformations that are shaping the global economy, according to Alon Berman, general manager of Ericsson Israel.
5G refers to the latest (fifth) generation technology for broadband cellular networks, launched less than two years ago. The technology will dramatically increase Internet speed and latency (the time between a user action and the response), as well as improved reliability and network security that will enable completely new consumer and commercial possibilities.
There are now some 200 million 5G users in 50 countries, Berman said. The United States, China and South Korea are the most advanced, with adoption growing in Europe too. Some 300 mobile devices, most notably the iPhone 12, are currently capable of connecting to a 5G network, he said.
5G download speeds can range from two to 10 times as fast as 4G networks that most Israelis currently use, depending on how the network is deployed. Market studies in South Korea have shown that this leads users to consume twice as much data, Berman said.
Improved latency means that response times for interactive activities such as online gaming, flying drones or operating machinery will be far more responsive and smoother, as data will transfer in half the time compared with current norms.
Greater performance will also afford more consumer experiences such as virtual reality and interactive engagement in live events online.
Industries will also benefit from enhanced connectivity, as 5G will provide the backbone for full interactivity between different machines. Berman gave the examples of an automotive assembly line, where augmented reality can test products and manufacturing equipment can receive preventive maintenance automatically. In shipping ports, incoming containers will be directed to the right storage facilities automatically.
In hospitals, 5G will allow patient data to be shared throughout devices without the security concerns of Wi-Fi networks. Consumer devices will communicate with each other through an Internet of Things that could eventually see a million devices per square kilometer connected.
THE COMMUNICATIONS MINISTRY officially launched 5G in Israel in September, with the three major networks – Pelephone, Partner and Hot – each deploying about 250 5G antennae around the country, in addition to the 2,000-2,500 4G antennae each company deploys. Berman noted that 4G networks have also been upgraded in the past year, and this has resulted in many smartphone users enjoying improved speeds on their devices.
“5G is just in its initial phases in Israel,” Berman said. “The Communications Ministry has set out a five-year plan for full deployment, and it will probably be two to four years until we see adoption start to mature here.”
That can’t come soon enough, because the Israel’s Internet speeds currently rank poorly by global standards. Even after the 4G improvements, mobile download speeds are currently about 30 megabytes per second (Mbps), while the global average is about 50 Mbps, Berman said. That ranks the Startup Nation at 73rd in the world. For broadband Internet speeds, Israel ranks 30th in the world.
Israel actually has the cheapest mobile Internet service in the world, thanks to reforms implemented a decade ago to increase competition in the field. However, the high competition is now one of the factors holding back the county’s development.
“With Internet packages costing as little as NIS 30 a month and cut-throat competition, providers are financially challenged, and it is harder for them to invest heavily in upgrading networks, even if the Communications Ministry incentivizes them heavily,” Berman said.
While Cellcom was allowed to acquire Golan Telecom last summer, a merger offer between Hot and Partner was rejected for fear of harming competition in the field.
“It would be wise for the Communications Ministry to allow another merger,” he said. “The more Internet infrastructure is developed in a country, the more it develops the economy as a whole.”
Partner and Hot currently offer 5G packages starting at NIS 60, and Pelephone offers a NIS 50 plan, with about four to five different 5G-supported devices available for sale. Berman noted that market research showed that about half of global consumers were willing to pay about 10% more for 5G service. Some networks around the world are offering 5G for the same price as 4G, while others are making it available with premium data packages only.
“COVID has made it even more clear that the Internet is a necessity for everyone, and that speed is really important,” Berman said. “5G will provide a giant leap for consumers and businesses in all industries, allowing huge improvements in data delivery that will change the way business is done.”