Cellcom eSIMs – Everything You’ll Ever Need to Know
Whether you’re traveling to Israel for a vacation or making Aliyah, you need to stay connected. That means you need your cellphone. That’s where a potential problem arises – your current carrier may not offer facilities to make calls from Israel, or if they do, they’re extremely expensive.
That’s where embedded SIMs (eSIMs) come into play.
These clever SIM cards give you the opportunity to purchase prepaid plans that make calling from – and within – Israel much cheaper than if you relied on your U.S.-based provider. As Israel’s largest cellphone service provider – serving 31% of the country – Cellcom Israel may be your first port of call for your eSIM. Here, you’ll learn more about what eSIMs do, whether Cellcom actually offers them, and how their eSIM service really stacks up.
What Does an eSIM Do?
First, the most important question – what is an eSIM?
eSIMs are special SIM cards that are embedded into your phone, meaning you can’t simply pull them out of a slot as you would with traditional SIM cards. That’s actually a good thing, as this little chip allows you to join a new network by downloading a carrier’s eSIM profile rather than switching out a physical card. In some cases, your eSIM may allow you to join three or four separate plans, which you can switch between at will using your smartphone.
That makes them extremely beneficial for people who want to avoid the extensive roaming fees that many U.S.-based carriers charge when you’re out of the country. Instead, you can use your eSIM to get a prepaid plan – relevant to Israel – to keep your communication costs low.
Beyond that, they work much like a regular SIM. They allow you to connect with a relevant network, after which you can make calls and send SMS messages.
Crucially, not all smartphones have eSIMs. A quick and easy way to check yours is to look for a slot that contains a physical SIM card.
If your phone has one, it likely doesn’t have an eSIM installed. The slot would be pointless if it did. However, if you can’t find a way to remove a physical SIM card from the phone, you likely have an eSIM. If you’re still not sure, research the specific make and model of the phone online or contact your current service provider for more information.
Does Cellcom Israel Offer eSIM?
Yes, Cellcom Israel is one of several service providers that offer eSIM plans to its customers. The company upgraded its offering in February 2021 when it announced a partnership with Amdocs, one of the leading cloud eSIM providers in Israel. That partnership set the stage for Cellcom to start offering eSIM-enabled devices in Israel. In addition, Amdocs gave the company the technical foundation it needed to offer prepaid plans to people traveling into Israel.
In a joint press release with Amdocs, Cellcom said that the partnership would enable customers to “quickly register and onboard new services” without switching out physical SIM cards.
There’s just one problem – Cellcom’s eSIMs are only available for smartwatches at the time of writing. That means you won’t be able to register for an eSIM plan with the company via your smartphone. Instead, you’ll have to purchase a smartwatch if you don’t already have one. Thankfully, you can still make calls and send SMS messages – independently of your phone – using a smartwatch, so Cellcom is still an option for eSIMs.
Worse yet, the company only offers its eSIM plans to Israeli residents, with no pre-paid plans available for travelers. If you’re visiting the country – or in the process of making Aliyah and haven’t completed your move fully yet – you’ll need to use another provider. Holafly, Sim2Fly, and Nomad all offer prepaid eSIM plans that may be a better choice than Cellcom Israel’s, both because they’re available for phones and to people who don’t already live in Israel.
Is Amdocs a Good eSIM Cloud Provider?
Offering eSIM services is one thing. Providing a quality service is quite another, which is why it’s worth investigating Amdocs further to see whether it’s a capable cloud provider.
Thankfully for Cellcom Israel, Amdocs is one of the country’s leading cloud and eSIM technology companies. In March 2023, it was ranked as the top vendor for eSIM orchestration platforms in the country by Counterpoint Research. Amdocs achieved a total score of 146 out of 150 – ranking as No. 1 in 17 of Counterpoint’s categories – placing it ahead of brands such as Nokia and Moflix.
In particular, the report, which examined 23 eSIM orchestration services, highlighted Amdocs as having the most complete service. Plus, it came out on top when it comes to user-friendliness, indicating that your switch to a Cellcom Israel eSIM plan should be fairly simple to navigate. That simplicity also benefits Cellcom – the technology behind eSIM orchestration is handled for them, so they simply need to offer plans based on Amdocs’ cloud technology.
It’s also worth pointing out that Amdocs is constantly looking to improve its own technology. For instance, May 2022 saw it upgrade its 5G capabilities with the acquisition of the U.K.-based company Mycom OSI. So, Cellcom Israel has attached itself to a top eSIM and cloud provider, meaning that its eSIM users can at least rely on a stable network.
How Much Will Your Cellcom Israel eSIM Cost?
Of course, having a strong service provider doesn’t guarantee that Cellcom Israel is your best option for an eSIM. The cost of its plans is also a factor, beyond the availability of said plans to travelers.
The good news for Cellcom is that it seems to lead the market in eSIM plan prices, at least domestically. It currently costs 14.9 NIS (approx. $4.30) to set up a monthly plan on your smartwatch with Cellcom. That is equal to Partner and is cheaper than Pelephone, which charges 19.90 NIS (approx. $5.70) per month. SkyCall also offers eSIMs to Israeli residents, with their offering extending to smartphones. They fall into the middle of the pack for prices, charging 16 NIS (approx. $4.60) per month.
Visitors to Israel, unfortunately, need to source an eSIM provider that offers travel packages. Those packages are data-based and tend to be more expensive than domestic eSIM packages. The following is a selection of possible options:
- Nomad – Nomad’s lowest plan costs $13 for a pre-paid eSIM offering 1GB of data. They extend to 10GB plans – costing $62 – with all plans operated by Truphone. However, you don’t receive a separate phone number with your plan, meaning all communication has to be conducted over the web.
- Holafly – As with Nomad’s plans, you don’t receive a local Israeli number with a Holafly eSIM. However, you do get data. A seven-day, 3GB package costs $34, with the 15-day package doubling your data for $44.
- Sim2Fly – This company’s sole plan costs $25 for 6GB of data, making it the most cost-effective eSIM option for travelers. Again, you don’t get an Israeli number, though you can use services like WhatsApp to send messages and make calls using your existing number.
Despite its limitations, Cellcom Israel does establish itself as the joint-cheapest eSIM provider in Israel. However, the fact that visitors can’t use these services is an issue, as is the point that it focuses primarily on eSIMs for smartwatches. Travelers and people who prefer to use their phones – or don’t own smartwatches – are better served exploring other service providers.
What Bands Does Cellcom Israel Use?
Assuming you still choose Cellcom as your eSIM provider, you’ll want to know that it offers as much coverage in Israel as possible. At a glance, it is one of the country’s top carriers – as demonstrated earlier by the fact that it serves about a third of the country – but you need to confirm a high level of coverage before you buy.
That’s where cellphone bands come into play.
A band is a range of frequencies – measured in Hertz (Hz) or Megahertz (MHz) – within a cellphone signal. The larger that range is, the higher the band’s coverage, with some bands also carrying frequencies that can penetrate solid objects, such as walls. Typically, 4G LTE and 5G networks are measured using bands, with older networks (3G and below) being measured in specific frequencies.
Cellcom Israel operates four bands – one GSM and one LTE band, along with a pair of UMTS bands.
- GSM – A GSM band covers frequencies ranging from 900 MHz to 1,800 MHz and uses a “time slot” system, with your phone using one of eight available slots whenever you make a call. The other seven slots allow the GSM base station to receive signals and calls from other phones. Cellcom likely uses this band to cover 2G communications, as its supported protocols – GPRS and EDGE – are both from the 2.5G generation.
- LTE – Typically used to support 4G networks, LTE bands can range from 450 MHz to 3,800 MHz, meaning they offer much more range than GSM bands. Specifically, Cellcom uses the B3 (1800+) band, which is essentially the standard for most network providers.
- UMTS – Falling in the middle of GSM and LTE, UMTS bands typically have a frequency range of 1,920 MHz to 2,170 MHz, though other bands that support lower frequencies are available. They’re used for 3G and 3.5G communication, with Cellcom’s use of the HSPA+ protocol allowing users to achieve 4G speeds on a 3.5G network.
So, Cellcom offers solid coverage when it comes to bands, though it appears to be a little behind the curve when it comes to 5G. Still, most of its eSIM users should have enough coverage to be able to make calls anywhere in Israel, especially with most modern phones offering 4G and 5G as standard.
Will a U.S. Cellphone Work With a Cellcom eSIM?
The short answer is no.
Because Cellcom Israel doesn’t offer eSIM services to visitors, your U.S. cellphone can’t connect to Cellcom’s services, even if you have an eSIM installed. Even then, Cellcom doesn’t offer eSIM services for smartphones – only smartwatches – so you wouldn’t be able to connect even if you had a seemingly-compatible watch.
However, this doesn’t mean that a U.S. phone can’t work with any eSIM. As mentioned, several prepaid plans allow you to use your phone’s eSIM to connect to a network inside Israel. Granted, none of these plans give you an Israeli phone number. But they do allow you to connect to the country’s 4G and 5G networks, meaning you can make calls and send messages via online apps, such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Snapchat.
A second option is to unlock your U.S. cellphone. When you buy a cellphone, it’s typically tied to a single network. eSIMs are supposed to overcome this by allowing you to have several SIMs inside the same phone. However, Israel’s providers simply don’t offer the option of a plan for U.S. phones.
By unlocking your phone, you sever the tie between it and its current network provider. This allows Israeli providers to offer a SIM or eSIM that you can use in the country, though you’ll have to become a resident to access most plans.
Is Cellcom Israel a Good Choice for eSIMs?
It’s difficult to recommend Cellcom Israel as a good provider despite the fact that its eSIM offering is backed by a leading cloud provider. There are simply too many limitations. Visitors to Israel can’t access a Cellcom Israel eSIM at all, meaning they’ll need to find another provider or resort to the expensive pre-paid data plans offered by U.S.-based companies.
As for Israeli residents, Cellcom’s offering is hampered by the fact that the company predominantly focuses on smartwatches. Yes, you can make calls and send messages from these watches. But buying one is another investment for people who prefer to be able to activate a Cellcom eSIM on their smartphone. Plus, that watch will be independent of your phone, meaning you can’t use its eSIM plan to make calls via your phone.
Still, Cellcom has one thing going for it – it’s one of the cheapest eSIM plan providers in the country. Whether saving a couple of NIS per month is worth the cost of buying a smartwatch over time is ultimately up to the customer.