Tele-communications in Asia: computer, internet access, fax, cell- line-
tablets, unlock mobile,
broadband, wifi, wimax, gprs, edge, hspa, hsdpa, satellite radio, cable,
pal, ntsc in
Southeast Asia, IP cloaking, relocating, vpn.
Whether for business, pleasure, leisure
or retirement, electronic and digital communications are now one of the most
important aspects to consider when taking up residence in any foreign
country. Increasing numbers of people globally are earning their living by
doing business solely by email and internet, in preference to conventional telephone
and Mobile Networks
Mobile network frequency bands in most
of Asia are GSM/UMTS: 900, 1800/2100 MHz; Thailand 850, 900, 1900/2100 MHz;
900, 1800/2100 MHz; US, Canada 850, 1900/850, 1700,
1900 MHz; Australia 900,1800/850, 900, 2100.
networks and phone services
are expanding rapidly in most Asian countries now, due to the relative simplicity
of establishing wireless networks in comparison to laying thousands of miles
of cable across areas which have never had any form of communication before.
This has created high consumer demand everywhere – not only in Asia. As with other
communications especially the internet, costs, facilities and coverage vary greatly between countries, as well as in different areas within those countries.
phone calls between your country and another, you need to know the exit
your current country location and the country code for the
country you are calling. e.g. to call from the USA to China, dial 011
86, then the city code and number. Note that
phone card rates are usually much cheaper than calling direct. You
use a PIN number before the code.
like GPRS, EDGE, HSPA, HSDPA, 3G, 3.5G etc. are confusing to most,
but they are related mainly to the speed at which data can be uploaded to
from a mobile operator's servers. We have tried to sort some of these
acronyms and definitions on our mobile
page which explains terms such as MSISDN, IMEI and USSD.
and 4G wireless internet services are expanding rapidly in Asia, with
many countries offering connection via a small USB dongle and a prepaid SIM.
These use the same transmission of signals as the mobile phone networks.
Laos is a typical example and you can get an idea how these services work
and how much you pay on our Lao
Communications page. Other SE Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand,
Indonesia and the Philippines offer similar 3G services.
Unlocked quad band phones and unlocked USB
can be used in any country.
The picture shows an unlocked quad band cell phone for under $35 and sold in
Unlocking a Mobile cellphone for prepaid SIM
not locked to a network by the
original provider, your mobile can be used with a local prepaid SIM in any country in the
world. This saves the considerable cost of international roaming or paying
for call divert. If yours is locked, phone unlocking can be achieved
quickly and inexpensively through
MobileUnlocked. For 10% discount, see right.
A cell phone
for use within and outside most of America needs to be capable of using
the 4 common worldwide frequency bands and not locked or tied to a
particular service provider
contract). Learn more about
quad band unlocked mobiles.
and VoIP (Voice over IP)
Get your UK
Where the internet is available,
alternative services like
Skype for Business
(except for mainland China) have made
phone calls using a PC
very cheap or
even free. The web is being used
for ordering, payment and shipment by international logistics companies (the
couriers like FedEx, UPS, DHL and TNT to name a few) who are able to deliver
goods to locations all over the world. You can also purchase and use a
telephone number for many different countries via your
is a new convenience service from Skype which allows travellers to access
WiFi HotSpots worldwide including SE Asia, on a 'pay-per minute'
service using Skype Credit. It comes with the latest 4.2 version of
their free software for PC
Cable and satellite
communications for phone, internet, navigation, radio, tv and internet in Asia
Satellite Broadband Internet is available via the Thaicom iPStar
satellite. It's used in 15 Asia/Pacific countries including
China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, India,
Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia,
Laos, Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam,
Australia and New Zealand. Local organisations and businesses including hotels and
guesthouses outside the range of 'mainstream' IPs can provide internet access to
themselves, customers and guests by routing the
satellite signal to a WiFi network.
Leading mobile phone operator AIS in Thailand uses the iPStar satellite to
extend their coverage to outlying areas.
Possibly the 'ultimate handheld global communicator' is the
Iridium 9575 Extreme satellite
phone or 'satphone' with GPS and SOS
shown here. You wouldn't expect the best (there is a range of devices for
most pockets) to be cheap, either to buy or use, but if you have the means
and feel your ability to call someone (or be called) anytime, anywhere is of
enough importance, then a satellite phone is an essential accessory,
especially if you are out of range of the usual mobile phone services. You
might be airborne, at sea, in the mountains or desert and need urgent
medical assistance or evacuation if you are in an
All you need is your trusty satphone
and a view of the sky. You could also be indoors and still receive
notification of an incoming call via the pager feature. See also the Thuraya XT Satellite
phone available from Amazon UK.
SATELLITE RADIO IN ASIA:
by direct satellite signal for Sirius|XM Radio is now available
only in the USA and Canada.
Outside North America,
WorldSpace Inc used to operate their AsiaStar and AfriStar
satellite network to cover most of Asia including India
as well as
Africa. In June 2010, WorldSpace services ended. Assets
have been acquired by a South African company, but
no new satellite radio services have been announced so far.
There's little reason to
bother with a paid subscription to Satellite Radio when free Internet
Radio is available on PC and smart phones with apps like TuneIn Radio
which even lets you listen and record sessions from thousands of stations
(and also transfer the files to your computer or mp3 player).
Apart from national TV networks and services in all
countries, local residents and ex-pats can also watch television in their
home language by cable or satellite paid subscriptions in most of the
Asia region's countries. Note that different TV broadcast systems are in
use worldwide. Most of SE Asia uses PAL, the same as the UK
and most of Europe. But Burma, Philippines and Vietnam use NTSC as
does the USA, Canada, Japan, Taiwan and S Korea. A compatible receiver will
be needed; some TVs and recorder/players can be used with both PAL and NTSC.
Free TV on your PC, laptop or mobile
phone. It is possible to watch programs from around the world from
a computer or phone screen. These include news, sports, series, cartoons, movies and
music from streaming radio and televison stations etc. That is quite true. However, be on your guard and don't
bother with software programs that claim to allow you to watch 3,000 or 5,000
channels free on your computer or cellphone without paying any form of
subscription. They are scam products designed to relieve you of $30
- $50 or more; you cannot watch live TV from countries like the US or UK. Read more on our Scams page
and see below for an efficient and cheap way to do this.
Changing or re-Locating Your Country
IP Address (Cloaking, Proxy, VPN) to Watch or Download TV Shows and Video
from USA, UK etc
There are many reasons for wanting or needing
to change the country IP address for the computer you are using to access the
internet when you are in a foreign country. Anonymity may be
important to you while you surf the web. Not wanting others to be able to
identify your current location. Apart from access to websites which are banned
or prohibited where you are, you may simply want to watch TV programs from your home country. National
broadcasters can prevent 'outsiders' watching or downloading their programs
by identifying the country where the IP is registered. The easiest way
around this problem is being able to cloak or disguise your real IP address
by replacing it with one from a particular country.
People living abroad can watch home country
shows using a Virtual Private Network or VPN service such as
StrongVPN to switch between
a USA or UK/European IP address on a single account that costs less than $5 per month.
Apart from anonymous browsing, bypassing national site blocking etc, you can
BBC iPlayer and get iTV,
Channel 4 and 5 On Demand as well as all US
network channels and streaming sites like Hulu. Easy to install
View or download and watch shows later
using an inexpensive
program that streams or downloads TV
shows, movies from all popular sources.
TubeDigger is possibly the only
works with Hulu (as of November 2011). I use this and the VPN services above daily and confirm they work
well. See or download all the TV episodes,
shows, films etc that you could if you were at home. See the
scam warning above for software that
claims to give you the same access to the main TV channels.
laptops, tablets for travellers
A netbook is a portable
computer positioned between
a smart mobile phone or PDA and a notebook or laptop computer. It is smaller
and lighter than a notebook, but has very similar features, but because it is
designed primarily for internet access it requires less power
(up to 8 hours on battery) and is
considerably cheaper than a laptop.
Netbooks are excellent portable devices for global travelers for whom
access to the web is important. 'Smart' phones have their place, but
small screens and tiny keyboards are frustrating to use and there
A netbook can connect to the internet
by WiFi, LAN, modem, USB 3G dongle or by
connecting it to your mobile phone by cable or Bluetooth
(known as tethering), making it a great device for web browsing, downloads,
email or website page updates, watching downloaded movies or
listening to music. You can see popular netbooks from
HP, Acer, Asus, Samsung and more at
Amazon.com or for British travellers at Amazon.co.UK.
One thing to note is the usual lack of
a built-in CDROM drive, omitted to reduce weight and cost. However,
external CD/DVD recorder connected and powered by USB
is small and quite inexpensive.
7-10" touchscreen tablets are
now seen everywhere; notably the Apple iPad with its 'Apps'.
Most others, like Samsung's Galaxy use the Google Android
free operating system and applications for phones and smart
devices. Tablets perform many of the functions of a computer at
usually lower prices. Chinese-copy tablets known as Chi-Pads
are often under $100. BUT... you get what you pay for, so don't be
surprised if they don't work well – or in some cases, at all!
Tablets with multi-touch screens with Android 2.3 or
higher are preferable; version 3.0 when it becomes
available, will be better still.
Use a computer, laptop,
notebook, netbook as a TV via co-ax cable signal
Connecting your PC or laptop
to a tiny, inexpensive
USB TV Tuner Dongle
– it even has a remote control – allows
you to view and record to hard drive from a tv/cable service by co-ax
cable. The advantages are numerous:
unattended recording, manual editing, and permanent
storage of pre-recorded programs or music on VCD or DVD are possible at
virtually no cost. This is easier and cheaper than TIVO!
Many developing countries (especially
those relying on tourist dollars) are expanding their 3G
cellphone networks as there are far more mobile and PDA users
than laptop or PC owners.
way, if you have memory or file copy protection problems when
upgrading a TransFlash or MicroSD card in your
mobile phone or camera, then visit our
Online Access, Internet Web Browsing, Email services
is an easy way to manage email on any web-enabled phone, wherever you
happen to be. If you have a
Google Account you can download the GMail Mobile
application. Send and receive all your mail by first changing the
POP/forwarding settings in your Google Mail account.
Internet access is
still a problem in a few countries in the SE Asian region. In some, development has
been slow, with poor quality services and maintenance, often due to corrupt
government and business practices, for the benefit of very few (and not the
end user). Affordable broadband internet is increasing in some
Philippines for example has many attractive features for foreign or
expat living or business, but from what we can gather, communications and
infrastructure much beyond Metro Manila are not among them.
Isn't it time you got an iPad? Note that if you are traveling outside the US, don't
choose the Verizon iPad version.
AT&T uses a 3G SIM
which you can replace with local ones in other countries. Also, you
won't always find WiFi everywhere you go.
same can be said for Indonesia outside Jakarta or possibly Surabaya
where there is a greater Indo-Chinese technology presence. In
outside Denpasar, internet is slow and unreliable and quite
expensive. Even in the Denpasar area where most foreigners
live and do business, many would say the same.
Singapore is much more
'internet-friendly' now with WiFi hotspots in larger hotels and at Changi Airport.
Internet shops are not so easy to find. Home connections are
available for residents. Kuala Lumpur
and Penang in
Malaysia have similar facilities. Several Southeast Asian countries manufacture a whole range
of electrical and electronic equipment and communications systems, but most
of it is exported to the USA and Europe. Local residential requirements for internet communication
are still low it seems.
Thailand on the other hand, has one of the best and most accessible
communications in the region; much of the improvement in prices, speed and
availability has only been since 2009.
main towns and cities have benefited through joint ventures
between Thai, Chinese, Korean and Australian private enterprise and the Lao Government.
Lao Telecom, ETL, Tigo and UniTel are the main Lao mobile phone
and internet operators, offer web
browsing and email using 4G WiMax, 3G and GPRS/EDGE technology, direct from a
suitable mobile phone or by tethering – using your mobile as a PC or laptop modem
via wireless connection such as infra-red and Bluetooth or USB cable. Data transfer
charges are reasonable at about $0.10 per Mb. WiFi broadband, dialup and
ADSL connections are also available in hotels and homes.
Vientiane, near the Mekong River and Nongkhai, Thai operators like AIS,
DTAC are within cell phone range, so Thai SIMs can also be used for phone
and internet access in parts of Laos.
More about internet,
3G USB modems and settings on our
Laos communications page.
a comprehensive page on this topic, as
well as a separate one for Lao Banking,
but banking services in the SE Asian region are generally good and
improving. ATMs are appearing everywhere. In Cambodia they even spew out US
dollars! Online banking is established in varying degrees in
Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines - maybe elsewhere, but
still limited in Lao.
Regarding banking, it's several
years since Vientiane
got its first ATM cash dispensers from two local banks. Now ANZ Laos, BCEL
and JDB have dozens
ATMs around the city (and other Lao towns) accepting VISA and MasterCard. See
Lao Banking page for further details.