This paper applies the institutional lens to the internationalization process model. It updates the concept of psychic distance in the model with a recently developed, theoretically grounded construct of institutional distance. Institutions are considered simultaneously at the national and industry levels. It also aims to understand whether the internationalization process of service firms is different from the behavior predicted by the model, which was developed for the manufacturing context. We empirically test the model using proportional hazard analysis with 130 instances of entry and presence of mobile operators in Europe and South America over 13 years. Influences of regulative, normative and cognitive institutional aspects were disaggregated and shown to have differing effect on internationalization. This suggests that institutional distance is a viable alternative to other distance measures used in the internationalization process research. The results also indicate that the internationalization behavior of this type of service firms might differ from the staged process predicted by the internationalization process model.