Speed of 3G Network in Hong Kong

Smartone-Vodafone logoPCCW LogoCSL LogoEarly this year both PCCW and CSL launched their HSPA+ network. As a result improving the speed and capacity of their respective networks. Offering a theoretical downlink speed of 21Mbps and uplink speed of 7Mbps.
On Wednesday, November 4th Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) launched their HSPA+ upgrade to their 3G network.

The difference between SMV’s announcements and the others, is that SMV also released a document to clarify the theoretical speed of HSPA+. Where as other mobile carriers in Hong Kong and elsewhere in the world, only focused on marketing the HSPA+ networks’ capability of 21Mbps speed, leaving the actual ability to achieve 21Mbps as small prints in their promotional materials. Such practices of these other mobile carriers are very misleading for layman consumers. I will attempt to explain further, to help clarify this theoretical speed of HSPA+ for layman consumers.

The ability to achieve a downlink speed of 21Mbps on any HSPA+ networks depends on many uncontrollable factors. Not to mention the availability of client devices that are compatible with HSPA+ networks. The user with the HSPA+ compatible device will need to satisfy all of the follow:

  • The user be within a very close proximity to the cellular antenna; well within half the distance to the cell edge.
  • There are no one else connected to the cellular antenna other than the user.
  • The edge server of the carrier has no other users.
  • The server hosting the web site has no other users accessing it.
  • Lastly there are no other users using the connection between the mobile carrier’s ISP and the web site in question.

speedtest-screenAs you can see from the above it is impossible to achieve such a scenario in real life.

In an effort for SMV to be transparent and honest to its customers they lay out the explanations for this theoretical speed in a web page on their web site, The truth about broadband speeds.

I will give SMV HSPA+ network a try in the coming weeks and will report back after I do.

In the mean time I have already noticed improvements on the SMV 3G data access speed in the recent days. This is most likely due to the additional capacity gained by the HSPA+ upgrade.

13 Comments

  1. Thanks for another tip. I rarely carry my laptop around anyway, so realized that the “wifi everywhere,” while it sounded nice, wasn't something I had craved in the two years I have been here.Regarding your question: PCCW has a special with the Hero contract, where they throw in a 32GB memory card. Smartone-Vodafone gives you only a 2GB card with the phone.I'm fairly certain I will go with SMV if I get the phone. I'm just trying to make sure I really will make use of a smartphone and might wait to see if SMV is getting the Droid (or whatever they decide to call it in Asia), which probably would lower the Hero's contract price, just like the Hero made Magic's price go down.

    1. Hi Sid,It appears that the PCCW sales person did not explain to you that the “WiFi Everywhere” package they include with the mobile phone tariff plan is only for the mobile phone. You CANNOT use it on your computer or any other device that does not have the PCCW GSM SIM card. When you sign up for the tariff plan they logged the MAC address of the mobile device, and restricted the WiFi Everywhere account to that particular device.Wow… 32GB memory card is definitely much better, but I’m surprised SMV is giving a free 2GB memory card, as most cards should be at least 4GB and higher. You may want to point out PCCW’s 32GB memory card offer and see if SMV can do something to match.BTW: the Motorola Droid is not that good. Most people who used it complain about the physical keyboard and the predictive text input. These are key features of a smartphone for a user to enjoy a good user experience.In most cases, the things that people like the most has nothing to do with Motorola’s MotoBlur or the Droid, it has to do with Android OS 2.0. The latter will come to most Android based smartphone in coming months. In due time it will come to HTC Magic and HTC Hero.BTW: the GSM version of the Motorola Droid is called “Motorola Milestone”.

  2. Most definitely do not let PCCW's “WiFi Everywhere” fool you. Yes, PCCW has the most extensive WiFi hotspots in Hong Kong, but as you know WiFi is not a service that is suitable for mobile connectivity, especially the way PCCW has set it up. Each time your device move away from a WiFi hotspot your connection is lost, and for PCCW the user is often required to re-log into their network. As you can imagine that is very distributive for the WiFi user.BTW: what are you referring to when you say “… 32GB versus 2 from SMV”?

  3. Hey there!Thanks so much for your extensive reply. I think Sunday was before my time, so did not know about them or their bad network. Thank you for informing me on this.I was leaning toward SMV anyway, and your e-mail helps with that decision. As you said, they both have identical price plans. I was only considering PCCW because they offer a little bit better deal – 32GB card versus 2 from SMV, and they add phone tethering and their “wifi everywhere” plan at no extra charge.Your blog is great, and I will definitely be reading regularly. It's nice to find some decent tech coverage for HK.Take care.

  4. Hi Sid,Thanks for checking out my blog.I do not know of a PCCW comparison online somewhere.The mobile carrier business in Hong Kong is very competitive as you may already know. In my experience I see that PCCW always leads the pack in introducing new technologies to the HK mobile offerings. Although, being the first does not necessary mean they are the best.You have to remember that PCCW sold off their mobile business (CSL) to Telstra several years ago, then to regain its previous dominance of the mobile business they bought Sunday. So the PCCW Mobile business is actually the Sunday network with PCCW enhancements and investments since the purchase.I presume you are only focused on the 3G network offered, given that you're looking at the HTC Hero. If you have lived in HK long enough you will remember that Sunday's network coverage is one of the worst in HK. As you may know 3G networks require a dense coverage of cellular antennas, so to deliver a good coverage the carrier must have saturated the entire HK area with 3G cellular antennas. I don't believe PCCW Mobile has done that yet.Also you may hear that PCCW has the fastest 3G mobile network in HK, but you cannot believe all the marketing hype. Although, I had not done any test of PCCW's network I see what the carriers are saying about their networks. You can read my thoughts on this subject in my blog.At the moment I do not believe any one mobile carrier is leading, but due to the competitive nature of HK mobile business I do not believe any one of the 6 mobile carriers will. There will always be a carrier that is going to be better than the current number one.Having said that I also do not believe there are that much difference between carrier tariff plans. Majority of them offer the same services and price; especially if you read the small prints and upgrade each of the respective plans with the same features.Therefore, I believe a consumer choosing a mobile carrier in HK should be focused more on the customer service; both before and after service, and whether the mobile carrier in question shows an attempt to do better. Based on these two points I believe Smartone-Vodafone and PCCW Mobile show good attempts to do both.In the case of Smartone-Vodafone, they are very concern with quality of service both with their network and staff service. Their CEO and CIO is particularly focused on delivering best of both. I hope you will continue your visits. I will try to keep the topics interesting for you.

  5. Hi there …I got directed to your blog by Neonpunch, as I was asking about HK mobile networks. I have been eyeing the Hero, and was trying to pick a carrier (PCCW has a better deal, but SMV seems to be a favorite on forums). I saw your SMV-3 speed comparison, and wondered if you knew of a place to find how PCCW ranks, or if you just know yourself whether they are worth it or not.Thanks in advance! I dig your blog and am glad I found it.

  6. BTW: the difference between the HTC Magic and HTC Hero is the pixels on the built-in camera.
    It will always going to take manufactures of Android phones time to catch up to the latest Android release; especially for ones who add their own layer above, like HTC, Motorola, and Nokia.

  7. Hey Vinko …
    Thanks for clearing up the PCCW thing. Yes, they definitely made it seem like you got the full wifi plan, for use on your laptop, for free if you signed the Hero contract. And they said you could tether the phone to a laptop, too, which SMV charges extra for. PCCW has a very high-pressure environment in the stores when I go to ask about phones.
    I think if I decide to get the phone I will mention to SMV that PCCW is offering the bigger card and see if they will bargain. I agree that 2GB seems too small – especially since the phones come with so little memory built into the handset! The salespeople say 512 MB should be enough for all the apps, but I figure there probably is a way through rooting the phone to make the card also be able to store apps.
    I agree with you – even though it seems to be a hot seller in the States, I don’t have any interest in the Droid/Milestone. I just mentioned it because I figure that when it comes, the price plan of the Hero will probably go down. The Hero and Magic are very close on specs, but the Magic’s plan with SMV is over HK100 less a month because it’s not the new phone anymore. I was happy to read that HTC is going to go straight to 2.0 for the Hero.

  8. Oh no… that's not a good idea. Testing using dslreports.com and a server outside of HK will bring in too many variables.I use SpeedTest.net's iPhone app, SpeedTest. It is more reliable because I am testing the network speed using a server in HKG and SpeedTest is only testing the latency, downlink and uplink between the server and the iPhone 3GS.

    1. I use the SpeedTest iPhone app and the HK server.
      It is best not to test servers outside of HK as there are too many variables that are out of the control of the carrier and yourself.

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