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.

Yesterday I reported Smartone-Vodafone's (SMV) tariff plans for the soon to release iPhone 4. Not long after my post was published the other competitors in Hong Kong also release their respective tariff plans for the iPhone 4. With the help of @abc1230 (on Twitter) I have created an English version of the spreadsheet (http://bit.ly/iphone4hkplans) comparing the tariff plan offerings from these carriers in Hong Kong.