Israel’s communications ministry officially launched a tender for 5G-suitable frequencies, with aims to announce the winners by the end of the year and deploy commercial networks in 2020.

The Times of Israel reported the country’s Ministry of Communications announced the plans at a briefing yesterday (14 July) and the terms will be made available to companies today.

Cellcom, Partner Communications and Pelephone, the three major operators in the country, are expected to be heavily involved and the ministry plans to offer incentives to ensure sufficient investment is made in the next-generation networks.

A regulatory shake-up in 2012 led to the introduction of a number of new players, sparking a price war and hitting the trio of operators hard.

Ministry figures released in June showed revenue from the mobile sector fell by 5.6 per cent in 2018, raising concerns about operators’ ability to invest in new networks.

Incentives to drum-up interest in the tender include a scheme which would enable winning bidders to delay payment for the frequencies until 2022. Operators could also join forces with other companies to share costs.

They will also get a rebate on annual frequency charges for four years by meeting certain coverage milestones, and win grants from the ministry.

Israel is selling frequencies in the 700MHz and 2100MHz bands, which are also used for 4G, along with 2.6GHz to 3.8GHz solely for 5G services.

Deputy director general of the ministry, Ofer Raz Dror, added the country would not follow Germany and Italy in holding high-priced tenders. “We built this tender so it might not cost anything to the companies.”

Israel, well-known for its tech start-up scene, is already lagging behind a host of European countries including Spain and the UK in the introduction of 5G technology.