No Internet, no SMS, no video... it's a kosher phone with a stamp to prove it

By Shmulik Yannay

Haaretz

Adar1 22, 5765

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis have agreed that MIRS Communication will provide their community with cellular phones preventing users from accessing potentially offensive content.

The rabbis not only will inform their community at a press conference today that they should buy the MIRS phone, but will also declare a ban on other cellular operators.

Two years ago, parents and educators in the ultra-Orthodox world discovered the "spiritual and educational dangers" of cellular phones, and expressed particular concern over the medium's impact on the younger generation. Parents and educators in the ultra-Orthodox sector believe the existence of cellular phones with video and Internet capabilities threaten their community's way of life.

Despite attempts by operators to introduce "kosher" cellular services that intended to keep youth away from inappropriate content, the ultra-Orthodox community's leaders have been adamantly opposed to the medium. In fact, rabbis declared a ban on cellular operator advertising in the ultra-Orthodox press last year, costing an estimated NIS 1 million in potential revenues to the papers.

However, the agreement between a rabbinical committee set up to address the issue and MIRS makes the operator the sole provider of "kosher" cellular phones and services to the community.

The phones, to be marked with a large, clear kashrut stamp of approval, will prevent users from enjoying Internet, SMS, video and voice mailbox services.

MIRS has been granted five months of exclusivity to market the handsets instead of its original demand requiring the community to commit to the purchase of 50,000 devices.

If the deal succeeds, the company could increase its subscriber base by 25 percent, from its current 300,000 figure.

The Ger rebbe, one of the ultra-Orthodox community's leaders, has promised to support the deal.

MIRS has agreed to offer an attractive 20 agorot-per-minute price for intra-network calls. The company's 60 agorot-per-minute charge for calls to other cellular networks is relatively high, and is intended to encourage ultra-Orthodox individuals to use only MIRS phones while keeping community members from calling those without kosher phones. The rate for calling Bezeq will be 32 agorot a minute.

Groups that buy a large number of devices will enjoy a very low 9 agorot-per-minute rate for intra-group calls.

The phones will offer MIRS' walkie-talkie feature - push to talk - at a very low price in an effort to replace the SMS option. MIRS also will offer trade-in rebates and other benefits to users who switch from other companies.