Israel's Bezeq fires up fibre optic speed after slow start

TEL AVIV, June 22 (Reuters) - Israel’s Bezeq said on Tuesday it was boosting fibre optic network speeds to up to 2.5 gigabit per second (Gbps) from 1 Gbps to win customers, after a late entry in ultra fast internet.

Broadband internet speeds in the range of 2.5 Gbps are not widely available globally, although some operators have done trials and offer some customers speeds of 10 Gbps.

“The most important thing for us is for the first time to beat the competitors because the competition started deploying fibre many years ago. We haven’t been able to do that because of regulation,” Bezeq Chief Executive David Mizrahi said.

As Israel’s largest telecoms provider and a one-time government monopoly, Bezeq had been locked in a long battle with the regulator over terms of its fibre deployment.

Cellcom and Partner Communications, Israel’s two largest mobile phone operators, capitalized on the dispute and began their own fibre rollouts, reaching hundreds of thousands of households.

Cellcom and Partner said they plan to offer faster speeds but did not give timetables.

Mizrahi said Bezeq’s fibre network, which it began to deploy in March, now extends to 680,000 households and will reach 1 million by the end of 2021.

Bezeq has five years to hit 2 million homes and Mizrahi believes it will do so much quicker, although the pace will slow as it connects single homes in rural areas.

Telecom operators have looked to services such as fibre optics to boost revenue and profit given fierce competition in mobile and TV.

“It could take time to see it in revenues because the take up is much lower than the cost of deployment,” Mizrahi told Reuters after a news conference.

“Maybe next year or the year after it will be significant numbers,” he added. (Reporting by Steven Scheer; Additional reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm; Editing by Alexander Smith)