Choosing a 3G Tariff Plan in Hong Kong for iPad

With the pending iPad official release by Apple Hong Kong some time in July, mobile carriers in Hong Kong have begin to release tariff plans designed specifically to target iPad owners.

Among them only 3 HK currently has a data plan that comes with either a regular mini-SIM or the new micro-SIM. The rest of the carriers are offering data only 3G tariff plans that includes a free USB 3G modem. All of the plans also come with free WiFi network.

Below I am only focusing on the respective 7.2Mbps unlimited “local data” plans from each carriers. Each of the tariff plans requires commitments between 18 months to 24 months.

Carrier Plan Name Contract Commitment Price (HKD)
Smartone-Vodafone Power 7
Tablet Micro-SIM Data Plan
24 months
18 months
$238
$198
PCCW Netvigator Everywhere Netvigator Everywhere for existing Netvigator Broadband Customers 24 months $328
3 HK Easyplus Data Plan x iPad* Unknown Depends on Usage

* I was not able to confirm with 3 HK the downlink/uplink speeds of their HKD188 Easyplus data plan.

I absolutely do not recommend using either of the CSL brands: 1010 or One2Free. Their web sites specify that their 3G networks support only UMTS 900MHz, which is not one of the 3G bands (UMTS/HSDPA: 850, 1900, 2100 MHz) that the iPad supports. Using 3G data plans from either of these two carriers will force the iPad to drop down to GPRS (2G) or EDGE (2.5G).

[Updated: June 23, 2010, 20:00]
Thanks to the reader, Peter, for pointing out that CSL had upgraded their 3G network to support 900Mhz, 1800Mhz, 2100Mhz and 2600Mhz. Therefore iPad on the CSL network will not drop down to GPRS (2G) or EDGE (2.5G) network as I had previously said. Instead it will utilize the 2100Mhz frequency.

I tried to confirm this 3G band information on the CSL 3G networks, but there is absolutely no way for me to get any information from either of the CSL Customer Services hotlines: 1010 and One2Free. After connecting to both of them, and placed on hold for extended periods multiple times, the CS representatives hang up on me each time without answering my question. This recent experience further justify why I left One2Free 6 years ago after being on their network for over 6 years, and why I do not recommend them to anyone in HK.

The rest of the carriers: China Mobile and China Unicom, in Hong Kong do not have 3G networks. Therefore, if you must get a data plan for your iPad WiFi+3G your choice is obvious, Smartone-Vodafone is the one to go with, but you will have to cut the mini-SIM down in size to a micro-SIM form factor for it to fit in the iPad SIM slot.

[Updated: May 25, 2010, 15:53]
As point out by @ThomasHK, 3 HK has non-contractual prepaid (“pay-as-you-go”) SIM cards with 3G data for HKD28/day or HKD338/month also.

[Updated: June 23, 2010, 20:00]
From a Twitter friend @jesschg who pointed out that since the writing of my post SMV had released their Tablet Micro-SIM Data Plan. I have since updated the table above to reflect this change.

I to have some concerns with SMV’s marketing for this new tariff plan.

Enhances Facebook apps to enable them to display videos on Facebook

This is already a built-in function of the Facebook app 3.1.3 and later. Redirecting Flash video to SMV servers so they can transcode it to show on the iPhone is nothing new for SMV. This feature had been with their IOM (“Internet on Mobile”) service for years.

  • Auto-detects & alerts you to RSS/Podcast content, for instant enjoyment
  • Helps you share webpages with others on Facebook or via email
  • Stores your bookmarks & 30-day browsing history online, for quick search & retrieval anytime, even if you lose or change device

Any users of “Tablets” with true browsers will not need help with any of the above 4 points, particularly iPad users.

What they did not specify prominently is the theoretical maximum speeds of this service, which they only sate in the small prints under Remarks

2-6Mbps download/500kbps-3.5Mbps upload

Although this is not the fastest speed available from SMV, iPad users will not care as the iPad will not be capable of taking advantage of speeds greater than 7Mbps downlink.

I expects other carriers will have updates to their tariff plans as we get closer to the official release of the iPad in Hong Kong.

16 Comments

  1. Actually the Netvigator anywhere portable 3G WiFi device is a pretty good solution for both iPhone & iPad internet access. You can connect up to 5 internet hungry devices to it. According to a reliable source, there’s not alot of difference in the slower speed and faster package. I’m planing on getting the $238 package for 24 months for my iPad, Netbook and iPhone use for data locally in HK.

  2. have been playing with one in the tokyo apple stores … i will not buy until version 2 comes out … why? first is form factor, the dang thing is hard to hold, slippery, not at all designed for the hand (iphone4 form factor will be much better, and i expect it will come) … second, function, 256 instead of 512, too touchy of a screen, folders absent, early apps lack appeal … screen resolution just not high enough … lack of camera, video … card reader, other interface with the world obvious lacks ..next time, ok

  3. Thanks for sharing the link from 1010, but I believe the web page is describing the frequencies that the 3G USB modem is compatible to.

  4. I'm new to being an HK resident, so I haven't really tried other carriers on post-paid basis. It could be that my standards for a carrier aren't that high coming from Mainland China & USA providers.3HK data speed is pretty good on iPhone 3GS/tethering. 3HK is certainly better than 3 Italy. Love their Daily Roaming Pass for data roaming internationally. Actually makes it practical to use int'l data roaming w/ iPhone.Only ever had one dropped call in past 3 months. 1966 int'l calls to USA sometimes aren't very clear but work great for calling back to China.I agree their phone customer service is horrible. Impossible to get a person on the line. 3Shop customer service is pretty good though.The ability to sign up with no contract and call forwarding package back to China were the reasons I picked 3HK over PCCW.

  5. Hi Larry,Thanks for sharing. Don't you find that the 3 HK to be of lower quality? Meaning frequent drop calls especially when moving from one cell to another. Most also conclude that 3 HK has one of the worst customer service only second to CSL in Hong Kong.

  6. Knew it was too good to be true. Actually it's $110/mth and the additional $0.01/kb is capped at $140. So max per month is $250. Seems like I'll be using Wi-Fi at home more often, except that my bedroom isn't covered! Might have to get a booster to extend the coverage…

  7. 50MB is nothing and will probably just accommodate the front page of Wired Magazine. So I just look as the plans as $90 unlimited 2-3Mbps and $140 unlimited 2-6Mbps. Naturally going for the latter.

  8. There seems to be some issues with the figures you have. If SMV is charging the same price for the Power 3 and Power 7 tariff plans, then why is the ceiling charge of the Power 3 tariff plan HKD90.00/month.Also how can they charge the same price for slower speed?

  9. Just got email from SMV – Micro SIM Power 7 Package HK$98/mth + $12 Amin Charge = $110; 2-6Mbps; 50MB data (thereafter $0.01/KB w/ ceiling $140); 18 month contract.There's also a Power 3 Package for same $110/mth; 2-3Mbps; 50MB data (ceiling $90).

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