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.

Operation ChockholdLast weekend the Secret Diary of Steve Jobs proposed a way for disgruntle iPhone users on the AT&T network in the USA to protest against the behaviour of AT&T. This also sparked the creation of a Facebook Fan page. Although I do not agree with Operation Chokehold. From what I know of the quality of service AT&T customers receive in the USA, I do agree that AT&T needs to improve their network infrastructure.

3G GSM networks requires a dense cell configuration and AT&T may not have enough cell towers to cover the vast areas that their network serves. On the other hand, playing the devil's advocate, AT&T's 3G network, like the ones in Australia, is still immature compared to other 3G networks around the world, so the US population needs to give the company time to build up the network to a more mature level.

All the user complaints about the iPhone in the US and Australia are not specific to the iPhone, but the iPhone just exposes these deficiencies in the respective networks due the ease of use of its data capable applications.

In comparison, we in Hong Kong has a very mature 3G network (over 5 years) and the GSM network has been around for almost 10 years. There are 7 mobile carriers serving a population close to 7 million in an area smaller than Manhattan, NY.

Having cellular signals in subway stations, subway trains, parking lots 6 - 7 levels below ground are expected by all HK cellular users. As I recall this is not the case in North America. Most people only expect "good" cellular signals when they can see the sky.

Having said that. I think AT&T needs to be more up front with their customers, accept the fact that their network in inferior compared to other 3G GSM networks around the world. Their network is not yet ready for the iPhone and its users. AT&T had underestimated the data demand of iPhone users.

Instead of blaming iPhone users or trying to restrict iPhone users from using AT&T's data network with increased data tariff plans, AT&T needs to acknowledge these deficiencies in their network and focus on improving the network, rather than spending unnecessary money on marketing or PR to improve their company image. As the saying goes, delivering good service to customers is the best marketing and will speak for itself. Case in point, Apple Inc.

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AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone

As most readers know I conducted a joint test of Smartone-Vodafone's HSDPA network last week; which I now found out it cost me HKD60.00 in data charges, as I had detailed in my post, Smartone-Vodafone HSDPA Network Speed Tested. At the time Smartone-Vodafone technicians did not have the data correlated until today. SMV Network Test with SpeedTest These results are from running the SpeedTest iPhone application on each of the iPhones used in the test.

SMV Network Test with Websites These two data chart were provided by Smartone-Vodafone, so it has the tendency to show Smartone-Vodafone network as the faster network.

I would not have averaged out the speeds of the test on site by site bases, as we are talking about different locations on Hong Kong island at different time of the day. The better way to look at these data is to average out the browsing speed on a per site, per location bases. Below is the chart showing the speed in number of seconds to completely load the respective web page. SMV Location View As you can see from the chart above. It is not that web browsing speed of the iPhone 3GS on the Smartone-Vodafone network is always faster than the iPhone 3GS on the 3 HK network. The important thing is that the browsing speed is much more consistent for the iPhone 3GS on the Smartone-Vodafone network.

Having a consistent speed is much more important than having a fast downlink or uplink. I hope that this will provide consumers in Hong Kong a close to real life comparison of the two mobile carriers' 3G networks.

3 HK LogoSmartone-Vodafone logoToday a reader, Stephen C., sent me a video of a test he and his friend conducted ("un-scientifically) with two iPhone 3GS's connected to two different 3G networks on two (3 HK and Smartone-Vodafone) of six mobile carriers in Hong Kong.

The result are a bit surprising, especially for customers of Smartone-Vodafone. The video had been sent to Smartone-Vodafone Customer Service and hopefully we will receive an official respond.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ns0DdKNee3E

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AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone