Staying Connected in Israel
How to choose an Internet Service Provider (ISP) in Israel
By: Yair Hakak
Israel has one of the highest rates of high-speed internet penetration of any country on earth. Over 55% of households in Israel are connected to the internet, and because of significant competition between providers, rates are generally quite low.
Consumers who want to connect to the internet in Israel must purchase two services, an “infrastructure” service (known in Hebrew as “tashtit”) and an
ISP (“internet service provider”) service. Each without the other is of no value. There are currently two infrastructure providers
in Israel, Bezeq - the telephone company, and HOT - the cable company. There are
a number of internet service providers, with 5 major ISP’s sharing the bulk of the market.
The thinking behind this strange (and, to the best of my knowledge, completely unique) arrangement, which was created by the Ministry of Communications, is that this creates competition between Bezeq and HOT on one side
(as to who will give the consumer internet "infrastructure"), and competition between the ISP's on the other side
(as to who will connect the consumer to the internet regardless of which company he gets "infrastructure" from).
Consumers can choose either ADSL, which is offered by Bezeq, or Cable Modem
technology, which is offered by HOT. Speeds today range from 750 Kilobits per second to 5 Megabits per second (there are 1024 kilobits in a megabit - meaning 5 MB is roughly 6 times faster than 750 KB). HOT's network is more prone to lower speeds when more people are logged on, as it is based on shared bandwidth between all users in a neighborhood. However, when conditions are optimal (few users) cable is capable of higher speeds than ADSL.
Bezeq's ADSL modems use the PPPOE protocol (point to point protocol over Ethernet) while HOT's modems use LT2P and PPTP technology. If you plan to purchase your own router to create a home network (either wireless or wired), make sure it is compatible with the proper protocols. As a general rule, almost all equipment supports PPPOE but LT2P and PPTP support is not as widespread, especially on equipment manufactured for the US market.
In practice, if you want to connect to the internet, call your preferred ISP, and they'll usually handle the details of getting you "infrastructure" as well, walking you through the process with either Bezeq or HOT.
In practice, the choice of "infrastructure" is far less important than the choice of ISP. This is because all ISP's (not just in Israel) work on a ratio of number of users to amount of bandwidth. Thus, while an ISP may provide a connection of 5 MB, it is highly unlikely that the user will be able to download a file, for example, at this rate. This is for a number of reasons:
The ISP does not assume that all its customers will be online at the same time. For example, if the ISP has 20 customers, each with a 5 MB connection, it will not purchase 100 megabits of bandwidth to the rest of the world, and if all 20 customers attempt to download at the same time, speed will decrease for everyone.
Downloading from servers on "distant" parts of the internet takes longer than downloading from servers that are "close" to your internet service provider.
In Israel, there are a few quirks that should be explained. Israel is connected to the rest of the world by undersea fiber-optic cables from the coast to Europe. Israeli ISP's buy "space" on these cables to connect them to the rest of the world, via Europe (usually Italy). Therefore, downloading from sites in the USA may be slower than downloading from sites in European countries.
In order to save money, the Israel Internet Association (http://www.isoc.org.il) has created a "private internet" for Israeli ISP's, so that traffic from one ISP to another inside Israel doesn't need to travel over the undersea cables. Rather, all local traffic never leaves the country, and is therefore significantly faster.
If you'd like to see these effects in action, do the following. Open a command window (MS DOS prompt on windows) from your computer and type the following:
This will show you a list of all the "hops" that your traffic takes to reach the web servers of Columbia University in New York. Most Israeli ISP's take about 180 milliseconds to accomplish this.
If you do a similar "traceroute" to Tel Aviv university (tracert www.tau.ac.il) you should see that this takes about 15-20 milliseconds, which is significantly less.
The moral of the story? Before you choose an ISP, know your web usage pattern. If you use mainly Israeli sites, you'll get faster browsing, no matter what ISP you use. If you mainly browse European sites, your speed will be slower, and if most of your browsing is to American sites, it will be significantly slower. Thus, for users who usually browse to sites in the US, it's important to choose a good ISP with plenty of bandwidth and fast routes.
How to Choose an ISP
- First, make sure the ISP you're considering has a license. You can find the complete list in these two documents:
A license is important because if you have a problem, you can send a complaint to the Ministry of Communications and they'll help you.
There are currently 5 ISP's who have direct links to the world outside Israel.
They are 012 Golden lines, Barak, Bezeq International, Internet Zahav-Smile, and Netvision
- and a number of smaller ISP's who buy bandwidth from the bigger ISP's and resell it. Smaller ISP's sometimes offer better customer service, and larger ISP's usually offer better prices. Like everything in life, there's no free lunch.
Ask the prospective internet service provider how much bandwidth they have to the outside world. Some ISP's are proud of their bandwidth and show it on their websites, and others try to hide it. If you're technically minded, ask detailed questions.
Always call your ISP every 6 months to see if you're getting the best price. Since prices are dropping all the time, you might be paying the rate that was competitive when you bought your internet, but might be ridiculously high now. If your ISP balks at lowering your price after your initial commitment is up, it's easy to switch - it doesn't involve any hardware changes (because your "infrastructure" provider handles all of that) and can be done almost instantly.
If most of your internet activity is inside Israel, you should probably choose the cheapest ISP, as all of them have adequate bandwidth in-country. Otherwise, do a little looking around on the web to see how happy people are with their ISP.
What to know how much bandwidth each ISP has inside Israel?
About the author:
Yair Hakak is CEO of Jerusalem-based Go Telecom, Ltd., offering voice-over-IP services in Israel. Go Telecom offers superior audio quality, support, and attractive price plans. You can see more details at