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- SiM card in Hong Kong

- mobile-data in Hong Kong

At the airport, TRAVELX sells SIM's for approx  HKD $88  or $120.

Try the airport 7-11 and other convenience shops as well.
Outside the airport, at any 7-11 shop in HK you can also buy SIM cards for around HKD $88 or $100


Your HK SiM card will often have 2 days of free data, and after that mobile data goes back to a very high default rate. At the default rate, all your mobile credit will be used up quickly, if you continue to use data. 
             If you are going to use data for more than 2 days, you are better off to purchase a "Data Pack" which for example might be 1.5 GB for 3, or 5 or 7 days, for a fixed price. 
To buy a "package"  you use your mobile credit to purchase mobile data for 1, 3, 7, or 30 days. 

  • If your data pack is "unlimited" then you normally won't be able to do 'tethering or hotspots' with your phone, (if you could do that, you could supply all your friends with data for 'free').  
  • If your data pack is a fixed amount, e.g. 1.5GB, then hotspot, or tethering is usually possible (that way you use more data and the provider can sell you more data). 

Since 2014 data speeds and prices have both gone up. 
Go to any 7-11 shop and check out the prices, and conditions, data pack costs, etc...  on the SIM card packs.

China Mobile is usually a bit cheaper than CSL or any of the others. 
 
The two best data and phone deals I (Heiko) have found are:

1) China mobile SIM pack and data usually cheaper than CSL but not as fast !

China Mobile Prepaid useful codes

*103#    to choose how many days of mobile data '3' for 30 days, once you start this it will keep renewing until you are out of credit or stop it with a "turn off code" 
Turn off data if you don't need it because out of HK for some time: 

*103*02#         is the turn  off code  to turn off china mobile data 
*103#               to turn china mob back on

* #130 #     for balance and expiry of package - you will receive an sms

*139* (voucher recharge code)#             to recharge credit:    

more details at this link and picture below

China mobile has good deals for data: HKD $38 for 30 days - unlimited data. However not as fast as CSL. 


2) CSL mobile:  HKD $78 of $88 for 7days or HKD $148 for 30 days 3GB data  
 If you just want a week or a few days, then the HK$78, or $88 SIM packs are fine, they will do data packages for daily or 7 days of data. If you want 30day data, then you have to buy the $100 SIM pack of add more credit.

Survey of HK mobile Broadband:  HK mobile Broadband providers here (2012, 2013)

Wifi modem or tethering ? which one ?

Useful fact I found out the hard way: A data SIM card used in a mobile phone to do tethering (i.e. create a wifi hotspot) is very slow. The SAME SIM card in a wifi modem is very fast ! So that means: you phone is not a very efficient wifi hotspot.... (of course it varies with phones, you phone might do great speeds for tethering in which case you don't even need to buy a wifi modem ....)


The fine print: Full speed but not full speed. - the sneaky ways of Telecom Companies  or How come all the telecom companies promise great data speeds but in reality the speed on your phone is still pretty low ?

It is possible for a phone provider to honestly(???) say that their service has these amazingly high speeds and you are subscribed to it. They will have technical figures to "prove" it          BUT                at the same  time the the actual speed on your handset is not much better than it was before.
How can they do this  you ask ?
Ah...grasshopper, .... by using  sneaky legal trickery. 
They didn't tell you about something called "priority".
"Priority" determines how long you wait in the queue. Just like waiting in a queue at the bus stop, once you are on the bus, you will move pretty fast, but the trick is getting on in the first place.
Its similar in phone service.
When you are ON, you might get the full speed, but much of the time is spend in the queue.
So it is possible that your your speed may be 3G or 4G but your PRIORITY can be low.
So yes, you have fast 4G/3G, but if you include the time spent waiting in the queue, your average speed can actually be quite low.

Another way to 'prioritize' is to put you on the bus the whole time, but to use a "slow bus", meaning they just slow down the netwwork data rate. Both methods come to the same result. 

Why do they do this ?
Actually they have no choice, they HAVE to do this.
Because the number of users on a network changes all the time.
If at a certain time of the day 100
times the number of people use a network, then it is like rush hour on the freeway, too many cars, too many users on the network, someone has to slow down. Someone has to stand aside or else it all crashes.
Of course the phone company could build a network that can deal with the peak demand, but then the network would be under-used (under utilized) most of the time. It would be like building a 30 lane freeway so that you never ever get a traffic jam. Possible but expensive and wasteful. Most of the time the 30 lanes are not used.
In the same way there is a balance between speed, and the number of users on a network.
The way the network adjusts to more users is to slow everyone down, using what is called 'priority'.

Does a company slow everyone down the same ? Ah...now that is a good question. I don't know. But I would guess that not all subscribers are equal. Some are more equal than others.

Hong Kong  companies are good speed wise. CSL I have found to be the best so far.
In some countries the phone companies just add more and more subsribers to their network and the speed of the system slows down to a very low level. Its like the network is in a permanent traffic jam.

Back to Hong Kong:
This is information about 'priority' from the website of a HK Telecom company:

#After you have reached the monthly fair usage level of 5GB, you can continue to use the service without speed throttling or data capping. Your priority to access the network will be lowe
red and your experience may be affected when the network is busy.

  • - interesting that they say "without speed throttling or data capping". That just means they don't deliberately throttle your speed or cap your data, but they will prioritize you down and that will give you a lower speed in actual practice. Clever and very subtle way to put it. :-)
  • - The picture on the right is from  one2free's site here (Feb2014: it used to be on that page, but has been moved) , Telecom companies all use the same system.
  • - They all walk a fine line between lying, and giving an impression that is not strictly true. If I ever start my own phone company it's going to be brutally honest: this is what you get, this is the deal, no fancy bull, no clever words that make you believe one thing but don't actually say so - just plain clear talk. Love me or leave me.

So to sum up, your speed may be high in theory, but your PRIORITY may be low.  And don't forget that not all users are equal, some are more equal than others in rank..... .


You might complain about your data speed.
The company rep will then do a speed test. The speed test is in their shop.
Do they have a dedicated transmitter ?
You will get a great speed, they will prove it to you. 
They will install a Government approved speed test App to make sure it is unbiased. You get to see the test result on your own phone. That proves it's fast right ?
Right.
But remember in the shop you have high priority. But they don't talk about 'priority' much (if at all), however out in the real world priority varies a lot.


So a phone company can promise you high speeds, and show you great technical specifications, but you might be very far down the priority queue.
You could even have someone come out to your house, check the speed, and tell you, "See the speed is great, look at my instrument !"
And it would be true  - sort of.
What was not said was what PRIORITY your phone has compared to the speed testing instrument.
The devil is in the detail.


If you find that your speed varies a lot, depending  on the time of day, then you can be sure you are being prioritized down. After all, if you suddenly have 20 times the number of people using the network, you can't provide full speed to everyone can you ? It's like rush hour on the freeway, too many cars, too many users on the network, someone has to slow down. Someone has to stand aside else it all crashes. 
Priority is neccessary, every network needs to have that system. But the trick is in not telling the customer. The trick is telling the customer just the technical speed details. Its like telling someone who wants to buy a car that car can do 300Km/hour. Great. But when can you ever go 300Km/hour in Hong Kong ? You would have to go to Germany to really use the full 300km/hour (and then only on certain freeways, not all freeways/Autobahns' have unrestricted speed limits).

PREPAID recharge
You can also recharge your prepaid SIM  it via Credit card
Charge the SIM by Credit Card recharge top up http://one2free.hkcsl.com/jsp/prepaid_sim_card/recharge_method/recharge_method.jsp


Confession of a naive phone user: Contracts VS Pre-paid.

Arriving in HK in August 2012, I signed a 14 months PCCW phone/data plan I found that the internet data speed was really low. Theoretically, on paper I had 10GB/month, but the speed was so slow I had trouble getting more than 600MB / month. When I went to the PCCW shop they installed a Government approved, speed test app from a Government site and showed me how fast their service really was. I didn't know about "Priority" at the time, nor rank etc... .

Then I tried a one2Free prepaid data SIM card, and surprise surprise it was much faster (over three times the PCCW speed)
Was that just because it was a different company ?   - perhaps
Was it just better reception ? - perhaps.

Then the larger picture came clear: people on pre-paid data will change provider if the speed is too low.
People on contracts can't.
So if I was a phone provider I would have to make sure my pre-paid speed was good, otherwise I would lose customers. People can switch easily.
That means the power for the user is  in pre-paid ! 

Once phone handsets are unlocked, and people use prepaid, the service quality really matters because changing provider is easy.
Given the advantages of prepaid, I'm surprised how popular contracts are.  I guess advertising works.

When I enter a contract for great data rates and high speeds, what is my priority ?
Once I'm on a contract I can't leave the service, i.e.  the company has me tied to them.
Is there any incentive to give me high priority ?

Oh but priority just depends on the number of users at any one time, the company can't help that can it ? 
Yes and no. They can provide greater capacity.   But then there is also another thing,  your 'rank' in the system, i.e. your position in the pecking order. 
"Rank" ? yes, guess what that means.... ! .... for another time...


Home Wifi - from a phone carrier's data: i.e. no landline, no contract

Below is information on how to use a SIM card in a wifi modem:
Using a prepaid One2Free  HKD $100 starter SIM pack, configure it  to give broadband Data: as per codes listed in: prepaid One2Free data   for example:  To use a 30 day 3GB data package which costs HKD$148,  add more credit so you have HKD$148+. Then use code  *101*933*2#    send.
 
Then put the SIM card in your wifi modem.

Because the SIM card  is inside a wifi modem it means you have to recharge it either by:
1) taking the SIM out of the wifi modem and putting it in a phone and then recharging the prepaid SIM in the usual way,   - then put the SIM back into the wifi modem.
or
2) use the special wifi modem access system.
Connect your computer to the wifi modem you want to recharge. Then go to this address https://prepaid.hkcsl.com/usage
  you will see the credit available and expiry date & time for the phone number and SIM you are using inside the wifi modem. If you don't see this info, check to make sure your computer/phone is using wifi from the wifi modem (with the SIM inside), that you want to check. It will only work if you use the connection provided by your SIM.

The new system as of 2015 asks you to make an account first: from your phone, with the SIM inside dial *777 to set it up. Or set it up online at https://prepaid.hkcsl.com/   To reset a forgotten password dial *111# from your phone.

below: old system

There is an
https://prepaid.hkcsl.com/ to recharge the SIM inside the modem without physically removing it.
or use a credit card.
or "other methods" whatever that means....

Once the SIM card is in your wifi moden how do you figure out how much credit is left ?
You could take the SIM card out of the modem and put it in your phone, then check the balance.
Or a much simpler way is to go here:
https://prepaid.hkcsl.com/usage
You should use the connection from the wifi modem to go to those links above, the links will automatically read the number from the SIM card in the wifi modem and give the full information on credit left, expiry date etc....


(Best  to get an UNlocked wifi modem, i.e. one that will take ANY SIM card, from any provider, if you get the dongle, or wifi modem branded by a phone provider it will probably be locked to that provider.)

I have written this section for a wifi modem because I  found that a  SIM card with mobile date, used in "tethering mode" (i.e. to create a wifi hotspot for other devices) was very slow.
The SAME SIM card in a wifi modem was very fast !
In other words: my phone was not a very efficient wifi hotspot.... (of course it varies with phones.... but I think generally wifi modems are faster than phones in 'tethering mode'.)  more here



Secret tip: This tip is really only for a certain type of person....
carry a pocket compass. When I come out of the underground it is hard to figure out which way to walk, and where things are. A compass helps to figure out the rough directions.
For example in Kowloon, I know I have to walk West, and eventually I will come to the Tung Chung MTR line.... etc....  Phones have GPS, GPS requires batteries and gets confused underground and by big buildings. Magnetic compasses can get confused too, by moving trains and big power transformers underground or hidden. But soon you can figure out what is what.

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