CSL logoOn Thursday (Nov. 25) CSL launched the world's first LTE/DC-HSPA+ mobile network during their "Go Beyond" event held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in Hong Kong. According to CSL it's new network is capable of achieving speeds of 100 Mbps downlink and 38 Mbps uplink, with its DC-HSPA component supporting 42 Mbps. It is also Asia's first commercial LTE network with full digital voice traffic, built in partnership with mainland China's ZTE.

Although CSL refers to this new network as "4G", but according to International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Radiocommunication Sector (R).

A 4G network must have target peak data rates of up to approximately 100 Mbit/s for high mobility such as mobile access and up to approximately 1 Gbit/s for low mobility such as nomadic/local wireless access

CSL reports that Asia mobile has surpassed fixed line Internet access back in 2009, this gap will grow further and reach 400 million users by 2014, with statistics in ASEAN emerging markets growing even faster in favor of mobile Internet access.

To anticipate this growth CSL introduces a HSDPA 14.4 Mbps network in 2006, acquires a 4G spectrum license in January 2009, launches Hong Kong's first HSPA+ network in March 2009 and the first LTE/DC-HSPA+ network in November 2010.

Normally mobile carriers are focused on delivering comprehensive solutions to general consumers, by providing mobile phones and other devices to help layman consumers take advantage of the speed of the new networks. But this usually takes time for all the pieces to come together. As a result early adopters like myself is left with a wanting feeling. Yes, by introducing more and more advance networks, carriers like CSL is doing its part to break the "chicken and egg" scenario that exists between mobile carriers and equipment manufactures.

During CSL's "Go Beyond" event they demonstrate how impressive their new LTE network is with various real life scenarios. Showing live streaming of media content from a home NAS to a notebook computer connected to CSL's LTE network via a USB modem (dongle) was one. But the most impressive demonstration is the live streaming of a HD3D music video (approximately 300MB) with 5.1 surround sound to a notebook computer connected to a 3D LED TV.

All this demonstrations are great but one is left with the question of when will general consumers have access to this new LTE network? How much will this cost subscribers per month? The answer to the former is, when LTE capable devices become available. That is not the answer I want to hear, so I dig a little further.

I find out that ZTE will also be providing LTE/DC-HSPA+ dual mode USB dongles for CSL's subscribers to access the new network. According to Tarek Robbiati, Group Managing Director, Telstra international, these dual mode USB dongles will be available at CSL stores in Hong Kong sometime in Q1 or Q2 of 2011. Since there devices are half a year a way I did not want to try to get an answer to the second question, how much.

I always believe mobile carriers need to offer the option of just delivering fast good quality mobile networks to advanced users like myself. Make available the equipment/devices for advance users to take advantage of the latest network at the quickest possible timeframe. Allowing these users to connect their existing legacy devices to the latest network without upgrading or replacing their existing devices (mobile phones, tablet, personal computer, etc.).

One way to achieve this is through devices like the MiFi (aka "Pocket WiFi"), which allows its user to create a pico network (WiFi) around the device. Such a LTE capable MiFi device will allow legacy devices like the existing iOS devices (iPad, iPhone), Android enabled devices and even Windows 7 Phones to take advantage of the speed of a LTE network without upgrading.

Unfortunately, according to Robbiati the bottleneck for wild spread availability of LTE capable devices like the MiFi falls on the LTE chip manufactures. These chip manufactures are competing to make available various flavors of LTE chipsets to device manufactures. From the looks of it, CSL's new network will likely favor Qualcomm's variant of the LTE chipsets.

Now it is up to the device manufactures to up their game and deliver. I hope CSL will be able to light a fire under these device manufactures. A good way to do so, is to make LTE capable MiFi their priority rather than USB dongles. The trend is moving towards more mobile devices like smart phones and tablets rather than notebook computers, so USB dongles will not be desirable or practical.

I understand carriers like CSL wants to deliver the most comprehensive solution to the mass consumers, but if they want to realize a return on their investments as soon as possible, they will have to get early adopters like myself on board quickly to help reach the tipping point of adoption. Delivering a LTE capable USB dongle will not do it.

Being one of the most critical users of Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) I am also someone who believes SMV can do better. With the introduction of Zendgo on the SMV mobile network it is definitely a sign that SMV wants to be chic, whether it is time will tell. Using substitutions in place of Chinese or English characters in a message is not new. Taiwanese and mainland Chinese use numbers to represent phrases in SMS and IM. Japanese mobile and iPhone users have Emoji. Mobile handsets and carriers around the world had adopted Emoji as an alternative form of expression in SMS like emoticon's use for IM.

Why SMV invents a new form of emoticon, especially when its users have to subscribe to a tariff plan to use. Not to mention the recipients of these Zendgo message will either have to install a Zendogo client and/or subscribe to the SMV Zendgo plan to view the incoming message.

Can someone explains to me why SMV doesn't simply promote the use of Emoji instead? It is free for all handsets that support it (ie. iPhone, Samsung selected models, LG selected models, and many others).


From January 31 - February 14 I travelled to three US cities: New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. As you all know I am a long time iPhone user, someone who is very familiar with the Internet and various technologies. Hence, I was surprised to received a SMS from Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) on Feb. 5th, while in Los Angeles (the second city of my trip), regarding my data roaming charges exceeding HKD1400.00. I immediately followed the instructions in the SMS and contacted SMV's Customer Service (CS) department to determine what had went wrong. Especially when at that point, out of the 6 days I had been away from Hong Kong I spent 2 of those traveling on air planes.

To make things worst the AT&T cellular network in Los Angeles is very unreliable and I had to call the SMV CS 3 times, at the end SMV had to call me back to finish the conversation. The SMV CS representative tells me there were several +2MB files download and that my iPhone is still using data connections while I was speaking to the SMV CS representative. This was impossible as I had turned off Data Roaming, all Push Notifications and any Email Fetches on the iPhone. So I ask the CS representative to immediately disconnect all data functions for my account until I return to Hong Kong.

Out Come

On Feb. 14th when I returned to Hong Kong, the first thing I did as soon as I am able to turn on my mobile phone was to contact SMV CS. They tell me that they can reactivate all data functions for my account, but for any further enquiry about the case I will have to wait until Feb. 17th, when the department that handled my case, while I was in the US, to return to work from the Chinese New Year holidays.

Today, I was finally able to see my SMV bill online. According to SMV, on Feb. 5th when they sent me the SMS warning, there was supposedly a 7.999MB data usage costing HKD1119.86 based on a rate of HKD0.14/KB in a period of 1 minute. As you can imagine this comes as a great shock to me, since I knew mobile carriers have outrages roaming fees. So I was very careful not to incur any data usage while I was overseas and only do so in a very controlled manner. I explained all this to the SMV CS representative but he insists that my iPhone had indeed used the said data and refused to do anything about the charge.

Over the past several years I had supported Smartone-Vodafone by recommending it to almost everyone I know, including writing about it compared to other Hong Kong mobile carriers. Mainly due to its obvious desire to do its best for its customers. I even supported them during the past several years when it is indeed inferior to other mobile carriers in Hong Kong. I even offer my personal time to help them test their network, to try to help them improve the quality delivered.

My mobile phone bill for the month came to HKD3153.12 and I am only disputing the HKD1119.86 charge for the 7.999MB data use, but the SMV CS representative refuse. Saying that I have to provide proof that I did not use the said data amount. How am I able to do that?

I am very surprise to find SMV to be so heartless and disregards all that I had done for its Network Team. I expect it to stand on my side and believe that I did not incur the 7.999MB data claimed on Feb. 5th. This incident had totally changed my positive opinions of SMV and will definitely think twice on any future recommendations for SMV. I will most likely look for another carrier when my current contract expires.

[Updated: February 23, 2010, 22:00] Smartone-Vodafone had paid attention to my situation and now they had done the following three things to help ease the charges of my February bill.

  • Credit me for the voice charges relating to the calls I made from LA in regards to this issue.
  • Applied a 20% discount on the roaming data charges upon complaining about this issue and after I published my post.
  • Applied a further 10% discount on the roaming data charges after publishing my post, generating discussions on Twitter and after several SMV departments were made aware of my complaint.

These actions on behalf of SMV is appreciative and discounts the title of my post "Smartone-Vodafone Heartless". Having said that, I believe SMV CS needs to reflect on the tone and attitude of the CS representative (Mr. Kong) who handled my complaint the second time I called after returning to Hon Kong. I do not believe that SMV handled this case correctly initially, they should be treating all their customers as valuable customers. It should not take someone complaining about the situation publicly on the Interweb to react.

I hope SMV had learned a lesson about handling customer complaints as I have regarding roaming with my home carrier.

Smartone-Vodafone logoThis morning when I plug my iPhone in to iTunes, it reported that there is a new carrier update. The .IPCC file is what was updated and each Apple carrier partner in the world has one of these files. Visual Voicemail and Tethering are dependent on these files to be activated officially on the iPhone. So with my report yesterday regarding SMV's Voicemail migration and today's appearance of the .IPCC file, SMV is well on its way to become Apple's 2nd official carrier partner in Hong Kong.

[Update: January 16, 2010, 19:00] After restarting my iPhone I now have Internet Tethering back. What I also had to do was to remove the Profile originally created with Help.Benm.at.

Categoriesiphone, Mobile

Smartone-Vodafone logoAll of a sudden I received the following cryptic SMS message from Smartone-Vodafone:

Voicemail system migration has been completed. Your greeting & PIN have been reset. To check messages before system migration, dial 138 & press 5.

The thing is that there was no prior message to say that the Voicemail system is to be migrated. Also what does the last sentence mean? Isn't this SMS to inform me that the said migration has already been completed?

Seeing that this Voicemail "migration" comes so close to the official iPhone launch by Smartone-Vodafone on the 23rd. Does it imply that I'm correct earlier about Apple's Visual Voicemail coming to SMV iPhone customers very soon?

Starting January 23, 2010 Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) will become an official Apple carrier partner in Hong Kong, along with 3 HK. May be this will mean that the two long awaited features: "Visual Voicemail" and "Tethering", will also be officially available to SMV customers (old and new). I was not able to get an official confirmation about this, as everyone I spoke to are keeping the SMV iPhone tariff plans and features very secretive. When Apple released version 3.1.2 of the iPhone OS, they disabled the long enjoyed tethering feature for iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS users in Hong Kong who are not 3 HK's customers. This arguably is not the right thing to do and does not make sense. As 5 out of the 7 carriers in HK offers iPhone tethering plans for their customers. Plus all iPhones purchased through official Apple channels are fully unlocked and full featured. When I spoke with AppleCare about the disappearance of tethering on my iPhone 3GS, they admit that tethering should be working for me (a SMV customer).

This is especially frustrating when a friend of mine who purchased his iPhone 3GS from 3 HK, but has since switched to SMV. He is able to see the "Enable Tethering" feature on his iPhone using the SMV SIM. Putting his SIM card into my iPhone 3GS, or replacing my SMV SIM card with a new one, did not correct the problem.

I hope my hypothesis about tethering and Visual Voicemail coming to SMV customers is correct, I guess in a bit over 1 week we will all know.

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.

Smartone-Vodafone logoBefore you jump into a mobile tariff contract (for 2 years or 15 months) with your new iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS you need to understand that not all 3G (HSDPA) network are the same. This is especially important if you are going to buy a new iPhone 3GS. 3 HK LogoThe reason is because, unlike the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 3GS is capable of supporting 7.2 Mbps downlink and 5 Mbps uplink speeds. At the moment as far as I know the 3 HK HSDPA network is capable of supporting 3.6 Mbps downlink speed at most locations and 7.2 Mbps at certain locations. Where as Smartone-Vodafone's HSDPA network is already capable of supporting 14 Mbps downlink at every location.