2010-04-28

Prepaid data plan for the iPhone in Hongkong

I recently travelled to Hongkong and had a chance to try out the various local mobile phone providers. I managed to find a fairly decent prepaid data plan option for iPhone users, that I thought I'd share with you.

The largest local provider is PCCW. You see them everywhere, from phonebooths on street corners to wifi hotspots in bars. Unfortunately, whilst they offer prepaid talk plans, they don't offer prepaid data plans.

So after additional research, I decided to give CSL a try. CSL has spent the last few years building out their network and they now offer really great 3G service. The 3G speeds are some of the fastest in the world and you can get on the network on almost any street corner in Hongkong, as well as on the MTR .
I was really impressed by the speed of the network, but it is HSDPA only, so make sure you have an iPhone 3G or 3GS for your trip to Hongkong, as the EDGE-only 2G iPhone won't work.

Here's what you need to do:
First, go to Seven Eleven. They offer several prepaid cards - you'll want to get this one:

CSL Power Prepaid Sim Card for about 180HKD (~18 Euro).

Once you've popped the SIM card into your iPhone, do this:
  • Dial 179 179 and hit call
  • Press 1 for english
  • Press 4 for Value Added Services
  • Press 3 for Broadband Service
Next press:
  • 1 for a one-day pass (50HKD)
  • 2 for a five-day pass (178HKD)
  • 3 for a thirty-day pass (788HKD)
You can buy top-up cards at Seven Eleven, or you can top-up online. The card is valid for 6 months, but if you plan on going back soon, you can extend that for an additional 6 months from home by buying top-ups online.

Once you've loaded up your prepaid card, you'll receive an SMS within the next 15-30 minutes telling you that your "Mobile Broadband Service is activated" and you're all set!

Getting Online

You can now start surfing the net. You don't need to enter an APN, unless you want to use tethering and don't see the option showing up.
In that case, entering the APN "HKCSL" should do the trick (the iPhone doesn't seem to want to tether without an APN).

Tethering works perfectly - even when sharing the connection back to my iPad. I actually managed to get all my devices online with the single data plan, with the following setup:

iPhone -> USB tethering to my Macbook -> Airport Sharing to my iPad.

So that's about it! The easiest, fastest and cheapest way to use your iPhone in Hongkong.

14 comments:

  1. Hi,

    zuerst vielen Dank für die Infos. Es war wirklich sehr schwierig was konkretes zum Thema zu finden. Habe fast 2 Stunden beim googeln verbracht ;-)

    Ich hätte noch eine Frage.
    Wenn ich mich für die Option
    "five-day pass (178HKD)" entscheide, wie wird das abgerechnet. Es ist bestimmt nicht in 180HKD Grundgebühr inklusive. Muss ich gleich beim Kauf der Karte für 180HKD eine top up Karte für mindestens 178HKD kaufen?

    Grüße
    Marco

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  2. Hi Marco, nein, der "five-day pass (178HKD)" ist quasi 5 Tage unlimitiertes Internet und kostet 178 HKD. D.h. dir bleiben danach noch 2 HKD zum telefonieren. Wenn du nur surfen willst, dann reicht das und du brauchst nichts nachkaufen.

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  3. Hi Till,
    vielen Dank für die schnelle Antwort. Wüsstest du vielleicht ob die Karte auch in Macao funktioniert?

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  4. Hi Till,

    First at all thanks a lot for an competent information.

    I'm back from my trip to HK and Macau.
    CSL Power Prepaid Sim Card worked excellent in HK.
    In Macau there are only phone calls possible with this Data SIM-card(via roaming).

    The Cards were sold out at this time at Seven Eleven at the airport. You can get them also at 1010, a small store at the first floor. They had no costumers at all and did the whole configuration for me after putting the card into my iPhone 3GS.

    Cheers
    Marco

    PS: the card is valid for 6 month and can be use also in Germany (only phone calls).

    ReplyDelete
  5. Just got to Hong Kong yesterday bought the CSL pre-paid SIM from a 1010 shop near my hotel.

    Popped it into my iPhone but the shop service personnel could not set it up claiming that the service was busy. Also noticed that the 3G signal on the iPhone was not showing up so he recommended that I should wait 30 mins then try to get online again ..

    Still waiting after 2 hours .. Jus a word of caution ..

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  6. Did it work later?
    Was this "CSL Power Prepaid SIM"? ( there is a link with the pictures a few lines back)
    Cheers Marco

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  7. Hi, thanks for this great info. I think the first commenter asked this but I couldn't quite understand your response. If I buy the card for 180, does it have that value on it to spend, or is that just the cost of getting a sim alone? I only need a 5 day pass, so would I even have to top up or buy more credits?

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  8. The "five-day pass (178HKD)" is 5 days unlimited Internet for HKG 178. You can use your 180 HKG initial value, so after booking that you have 2 HKG left. No need to buy top up.

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  9. Do these cards work only with an unlocked iPhone? I have an iPhone 4 from the US. thanks.

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  10. Sorry to revive an old thread, but this was the first Google result so I thought my recent experience might help others. CSL's phone system seems to be incomplete, since I can no longer access the options for Mobile Broadband. I ended up having to speak to a rep, and he told me to dial *101*832*3# on my iPhone for the 1-day pass, or *101*832*4# for a 7-day pass. The rep said there's only 1-hour, 1-day, and 7-day passes. My memory is a bit unclear, but I believe he said the 1-day pass costs 47 HKD and the 7-day pass cost 78 HKD. I understand hese prices are different then what has been documented so far. The only explanation I can think of is that they're updating their plans.

    BTW, if you want to speak to a rep you have to call 179179 and select the option for report a lost card, and then selecting the option for talking to a rep.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Tony,

    Are there any limit to the data usage per day for the 7 days pass?
    http://one2free.hkcsl.com/jsp/prepaid_sim_card/power_prepaid_sim/charges/charges.jsp

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks Tony,
    I tried going through the 179 179 IVR too but looks like they've removed the option. Happy to report the numbers you provided works.

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  13. Just returned from HK, and visited the 1010 store at the Airport (Level 7, Departures).

    It appears that they have a dedicated Prepaid MicroSIM card package for the iPhone. It is slightly more expensive for making local calls and SMS (at HK$0.30/min instead of HK$0.10), but if internet is all you use, it makes no difference at all, as the internet prices are the same.

    http://one2free.hkcsl.com/jsp/o2f_next_g/o2f_next_g/starter_pack/overview.jsp

    I was set up within 5 minutes after buying the SIM package for HK$100, and the clerks at 1010 set it up for me immediately. I was charged HK$78 for 7 days of unlimited use, and all functionality of the iPhone worked, including tethering. The speed was fast and worked everywhere in HK.

    Great service from CSL and a wonderful cheap package. Strongly recommend the service.

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