After Steve Jobs' announcement at the "iPad 2 Event" that the Personal Hotspot feature will be available in iOS 4.3, people have been wondering if their mobile carriers will allow the feature to work, and how will these carriers charge for the usage of this feature on their network. Like these users I wonder about it for my current mobile carrier, Smartone-Vodafone (SMV) in Hong Kong. So right after the iPad 2 Event I posted a question on Smartone-Vodafone's Facebook Page asking them to comment on the feature's use on their network and the charges if any. All SMV has to say is "We do not have any information regarding Personal Hotspot at this time, please stay tuned".

Fortunately Apple made iOS 4.3 available a day early (March 10th) since my bill-cut-off date is the 11th. I installed it right away and tried the Personal Hotspot feature, only testing the speed of the connections of devices connected to the Personal Hotspot host. Because I have yet to confirm with SMV the charges relating to Personal Hotspot use. I waited all weekend and Monday for my March 13th bill to be available online, and it was finally available a few hours ago. As I have expected, SMV is able to distinguish the Personal Hotspot traffic from other data use, just like regular Tethering via USB, but unlike regular Tethering over Bluetooth. Apple probably provided the carriers a mean to identify Personal Hotspot traffic, since carrier partners are given the ability to turn on and off Personal Hotspot for individual subscribers on their network. The Personal Hotspot connection I tried was via WiFi, I'm sure the results will be the same through Bluetooth and USB.

Also as expected, my Personal Hotspot usage was "FREE". I have SMV's HKD389 iPhone Plan with unlimited data, which also comes with a handset rebate, giving me a monthly bill of HKD259 (USD33.24).

In the past month (30 days) SMV's bandwidth had dropped dramatically. On average it had fallen more than half as compared to previous measurements. I'm sure SMV is monitoring Personal Hotspot usage to see if it further congest their network. Fortunately, I currently also have access to the CSL 1010 3G network, and it is indeed much faster than SMV's 3G network at all locations: Wanchai, Central and Admiralty, I've tested. In most cases it is faster by 50% - 100%.

Last November (2010) Jawbone introduced the Jambox portable bluetooth speaker to the world and today CSL introduce it to Hong Kong customers. Although it is similar to the Soundmatters' foxL in terms of technology; it is both based on the technology invented by Dr. Godehard Guenther, the Jambox has a better aesthetic with its minimalist design, it is more attractive to the non-geeks, this is not surprising since the Jambox is designed by Yves Behar. On the other hand the foxL is obviously designed by an engineer. Since the launch of the Jambox, Jawbone has added three more colours to the collection: Blue Wave, Black Diamond (limited), Grey Hex and the latest Red Dot. The sound quality of the both are not bad but the Jambox has less fuller sound compared to the foxL. Fortunately, aside from the aesthetics Jawbone did add its know how in bluetooth, sound cancelations, an impressive voice firmware Jawbone brought over from their Icon line of bluetooth headsets, and most of all a better battery life (10 hours of continuous play). For a portable speaker battery life is one of the most important aside from sound quality.

Aside from acting as an external speaker for music playback and game play, it is also ideal as an external speaker for speaker phone, which Jawbone's noise cancellation technology really shines.

The Jambox is compatible with any devices that support bluetooth A2DP streaming.

Technical specifications:

  • Bluetooth v2.1+EDR (A2DP 1.2, HFP 1.5, HSP 1.1)
  • 3.5mm audio input
  • micro USB for charging
  • Output: 85dB @ 0.5m
  • Frequency: 60Hz - 20Hz
  • AC Adapter: 5V 550mA Max 2.5W
  • Weight: 347g
  • Dimensions: 151mm x 57mm x 40mm
  • All the necessary cables needed for charging and AC Adapter.

CSL also took this opportunity to introduce their Connecting Tone Facebook app. It is a service that allows subscribers to change their CSL Mobile account's connecting tone from within Facebook. The normal Facebook privacy options and sharing options are also available.

Aside from the above, with the introduction of an amazing portable speaker system CSL also announced the availability of exclusive HD Android games from publishers like EA Games in their CSL MyNet Game Zone.

In the US it is sold for USD199.99 through Jawbone's online store. You may find discounts at other online retailers. In Hong Kong CSL are asking for HKD1888.00 (approx. USD243) for it through CSL shops, with the Black Diamond.

People overseas have asked if I can recommend a stored-value SIM package for them during their stay in Hong Kong, so instead of repeating my answer over an over I've decided to create a post. Before reading this post one needs to understand one thing about the mobile market in Hong Kong. It is very competitive and the rates and packages change frequently; around every six months. So aside from the following recommendations you should also verify my information when you arrive in Hong Kong.

Another thing to be aware of. Except for speaking to Smartone-Vodafone, don't use the phrase "Stored-Value SIM" to describe what you're looking for, as most of the other 6 carriers do not know what that means.

GSM Mobile without Data

If you're not using a GSM mobile phone with a micro-SIM card then you have many options. Any of the 7 carriers: PCCW Mobile, CSL's 1010, CSL's one2free, 3 HK, Smartone-Vodafone, China Mobile and China Unicom, in Hong Kong will have stored-value SIM cards for you.

GSM Mobile with Data

It appears that 3 HK and China Mobile are the only carriers in Hong Kong who are willing to serve overseas customers that want to use mobile data on their phone while in Hong Kong. With the former offering 3G Data connectivity.

GSM Mobile with 3G Data and micro-SIM

Even though Apple HK has three official carrier partners for the iPhone: CSL, 3 HK, Smartone-Vodafone, and a total of four carriers that sells iPhone 4 tariff plans, there is only one carrier (3 HK) that offers stored-valued SIM packages with micro-SIMs.

The type of SIM cards that 3 HK sells are those that can be either a regular mini-SIM or a micro-SIM (for the iPhone 4). Although, after you make the choice of turning it into a micro-SIM there's no way to go back.

Conclusion

Conveniently all carriers' store-value SIM packages are available at 7-11 so you can make your choice at the Hong Kong International Airport before you get onto the Airport Express for town.

Have a good stay!

Posted
AuthorVinko

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.

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.

iPhone 3G With 3.0When I the create the post, To iPhone 3G S or Not?, I was not able to enable the MMS function on my iPhone 3G. Before I explain how to enable MMS on an iPhone 3G running the iPhone 3.0 firmware, let me explain my context.

My iPhone 3G is the officially "SIM unlocked" version of the iPhone 3G directly from Apple Online Store Hong Kong. It capacity happens to be a 16GB version. I installed the iPhone 3.0 firmware "Golden Master" version onto my iPhone.

The following applies to any carrier situations, no matter whether the carrier in question is an official carrier partner with Apple in the country.

[Update: 12:10, June 18, 2009] Added MMS settings for PCCW. Please note that these settings had not been tested on the iPhone. Please leave a note in the Comment section if you're a PCCW customer and tried it on your iPhone 3G.

[Update: 13:01, June 18, 2009] Thanks to reader Jon for pointing out the typo in the MMSC for Smartone-Vodafone.

[Update: 14:01, June 18, 2009] I just received some news from Smartone-Vodafone that contradicts the information I received from them in two separate occasions, which is the fact that they do not charge their customers for receiving MMS.

The latest information is that they will charge HKD0.04/KB; a maximum of HKD12.00/MMS, to receive MMS.

This comes back to my original point I always had with MMS, the technology will not get wide adoptions and acceptances by consumers until the carriers remove these ridiculous pricing.

I for one will not use it!

I encourage all to not use it and ensure you do not pay the fees to show our disgust.

[Update: 17:11, June 18, 2009] Thanks to reader Karay who pointed to a person calling himself "markmall_hk" on UWants.com, I have now updated the MMS settings for all mobile carriers in Hong Kong.

[Update: 01:10, June 20, 2009] Added settings for CTM in Macau.

[Update: 01:20, June 20, 2009] Thanks to reader Niels for the China Unicom 3G settings in mainland China.

[Update: 01:30, June 20, 2009] Thanks to reader Ju for confirming the settings for PEOPLE.

[Update: 15:10, June 20, 2009] Thanks to reader Todd for confirming the settings for CSL

[Update: 22:00, June 23, 2009] Thanks to the folks at iPhoneHacks.com we now have a set of instructions for our US friends who are stuck with AT&T.

[Update: 12:15, June 24, 2009] Thanks to reader Filipe for supplying the settings for CTM Macau non-prepaid SIM card customers.

[Update: 16:00, June 25, 2009] I just double checked Smartone-Vodafone's web site and it clearly states that "3G SmarTone-Vodafone customers" can receive MMS for FREE.

So I do not understand why the previous Customer Service representative claims that I have to pay the HKD0.04/KB when I clearly told her that I was on a 3G plan, plus she had my account opened in front of her.

[Update: 12:00, June 26, 2009] Added the instructions to enable to the "Cellular Data Network" option within the Network settings pane.

How to Enable MMS on iPhone 3.0

  1. Ensure you have a 3G plan with your mobile carrier. A data plan is not necessary with regards to MMS.
  2. Ensure the carrier had not blocked the MMS function from your account. In Hong Kong most carriers would not do so, unless you request them to do so.
  3. On your iPhone go to the Settings -> General -> Network -> Cellular Data Network settings and input the MMS settings specific for your carrier. The exact values for each of the fields will depends on your carrier. Do not worry if your carrier representative tells you that they do not support the iPhone. Be assertive and obtain the MMS settings: APN, Username, Password and MMSC. Most carriers would not have a Username or Password.

    If you do not see the "Cellular Data Network" option within the Settings -> General -> Network settings you can do one of the following depending on which OS you're on.

    Operating System Steps
    OS X
    1. Close iTunes.
    2. Start the Terminal (found in the /Applications/Utilities folder).
    3. Execute the command:
      defaults write com.apple.iTunes carrier-testing -bool TRUE
    Windows 32-bit
    1. Close iTunes.
    2. Go to Start then Run and type CMD.
    3. Execute the command:
      “C:Program FilesiTunesiTunes.exe” /setPrefInt carrier-testing 1
    Windows 64-bit
    1. Close iTunes.
    2. Go to Start then Run and type CMD.
    3. Execute the command:
      “C:Program Files (x86)iTunesiTunes.exe” /setPrefInt carrier-testing 1

    The following are the settings. Note that the APN is case sensitive.

    Carrier Settings
    Smartone-Vodafone APN = smartone-vodafone MMSC = http://mms.smartone-vodafone.com/server MMS Proxy = 10.9.9.9
    PCCW 3G APN = pccw MMSC = http://3gmms.pccwmobile.com:8080/was MMS Proxy = 10.140.14.10:8080
    PCCW 2G APN = pccwmms MMSC = http://mmsc.mms.pccwmobile.com:8002 MMS Proxy = 10.131.2.8:8080
    3 HK APN = mobile.three.com.hk MMSC = http://172.20.99.240:10021/mmsc Username = 3 Password = 1234 MMS Proxy = 172.020.097.116:8799
    CSL APN = hkcsl MMSC = http://192.168.58.171:8002 MMS Proxy = 192.168.59.51:8080
    New World APN = mms MMSC = http://mmsc.nwmobility.com:8002 MMS Proxy = 192.168.111.1
    Peoples APN = peoples.mms MMSC = http://mms.peoples.com.hk/mms MMS Proxy = 172.031.031.036:8080
    CTM Macau APN = ctmprepaid MMSC = http://mms.wap.ctm.net:8002 MMS Proxy = 192.168.99.3:8080
    CTM Macau (non-prepaid SIM) APN = ctmmms MMSC = http://mms.wap.ctm.net:8002 MMS Proxy = 192.168.99.3:8080 MMS Max Message Size = 307200
    China Unicom 3G (China) APN = uniwap MMSC = http://mmsc.myuni.com.cn MMS Proxy = 10.0.0.172
    • The "MMS Max Message Size" settings is optional but Smartone-Vodafone has a size limit of 307200 (300KB) where they charge HKD3.00/MMS.
    • For the PCCW settings you may want to try it first without the MMS Proxy settings.
  4. After these information are entered, you will need to restart your iPhone. Hold the Power button until the slider comes up asking you to slide to the right to shutdown the iPhone. Go ahead and shutdown your iPhone and then restart it.
  5. When the iPhone had restarted, on your iPhone go to the Settings -> Messages settings and ensure MMS is turned on. You can optionally turn on "Show Subject Field" if you like.

You should see an extra Camera icon when you compose a message in the Messages (previously known as "SMS") application.

In the Photo album application you will see an extra option to share your photo via MMS.

Please feel free to leave settings for your respective carriers in the comments and I will update the table above.