2G 3G 4G providers for voice, data, lao internet, isp, fax, phone,
prepaid mobile, ussd, sms,
satellite, broadband, wire and optic cable, adsl, gprs, edge, umts,
rates, hspa+, hsdpa, wifi,
air cards, tablets, wimax. No 4G/LTE expected in 2013. Main operators LaoTel, ETL,
Beeline (Tigo), Unitel,
Overseas Calls to and
from Laos by land line or mobile cell network
Remember there is probably a time zone
difference from yours; Laos is GMT+7 hours.
Without daylight saving, from the US West Coast, Laos is 15 hours
ahead and 12 hours ahead of EST. So 3 p.m.
in New York is 3 a.m. the next day in the Lao PDR (and much of SE
Asia) when most Lao
residents are sound asleep! Europe is 6-7 hours behind Laos, while
countries to the east are ahead – most of China 1 hour, NSW Australia
3 hours, New Zealand 5 hours.
CALL LAOS, DIAL OUT FROM
IDD code for
Lao PDR is 856. For a SMS text to Laos, send
+85620 xxxx xxxx. From a fixed line
phone, first find your local country international dialout or
In the USA it's 011. The UK, Europe and many other countries
From the USA to Laos dial 011 856 then the area code – 20
for all Lao cell phones, 21 for
Vientiane, 71 for Luang Prabang, followed by 8 digits for mobiles
or a 6 digits for land lines in Laos.
See below for full list of Lao provincial exchange codes. From a UK phone to a Vientiane land line (home phone)
dial 00 856 21 xxxxxx. For any Lao mobile
dial 00 (or
+ from another mobile) 856 20 xxxx xxxx.
LAO PROVINCIAL AREA
038-Sekong; 041-Savannakhet; 051-Khammouane-Thakhek-Hinboun; 054-Borikhamsay-Paksan;
061-Xiengkhouang-Phonsavan; 064-Houaphan; 071-Luangprabang;
074-Xayaboury; 081-Oudomxay; 084-Bokeo;
086-Luangnamtha; 088-Phongsaly. Remember to remove the zero when calling
or sending an SMS (text message) from
dialing another Lao phone number, use the 3-digit code above
unless you are calling between
landlines with the same area code or when calling another cellphone/mobile
from your mobile. Adding the area code when not required has no effect.
BALANCE, OWN NUMBER.
Call 122 (voice; 2 for English) or send *122# for display of kip balance
with expiry date. Send *110# to
identify the Lao SIM number. This responds with the
begins with the country 856 and mobile prefix 20 followed by
the eight digit subscriber number e.g. 8562012345678.
LAOS MOBILE GSM, UMTS NETWORKS 900, 1800/2100MHz;
LTE 2600MHz. A mobile cell phone
or 3G modem for use within and outside North America needs to be capable of using
the 4 common worldwide frequency bands and not locked or tied to a
particular service provider
Quad-band "SIM-free" mobiles
unlocked USB 3G modems
can be used anywhere in the world, using a local cellular operator's
voice+data or data-only SIM. Mobile phones are used by 80% of the Lao
PHONING ANYWHERE FROM LAOS (find exit and dial-in codes for any country)
Lao mobile (cellphone/cellular) operators
kip/min (US$0.25) for all international calls. Lao Telecom/WinPhone uses
the standard code:
00 plus country, area code and
number. Two operators offer
international codes (rates unknown) from mobiles: Tigo (now Beeline) key 177 followed by
country code and number. For ETL key 188. Unitel and
LaoTel do not use
special codes. Key 00 or +. Check your balance before and after making an overseas call
so you know what you were charged. It should not be more than 2,000 kips (US
25 cents) per minute to any country.
Outside main cities and in remoter regions
of Laos, operators have different areas
of coverage for basic, GPRS or 3G service. It's wise to
carry several SIMs (cheap to buy) especially for the northern provinces.
Buy refill cards for Lao mobiles in phone or roadside shops
throughout the country; they display signs or banners for M-Phone,
ETL, Beeline (ex Tigo) and Unitel. Validity usually equates
to one day per 1,000 kip e.g. 10,000 kip refill extends expiry date
by 10 days. Various plans for voice and data are available from the telcos.
Mobile recharge is possible also by
ATM, and Beeline SIMs can now be refilled from overseas (with credit
card or PayPal) using Ezetop. See related
Exit code plus 7 or 8 are alternative dial out codes that can be used to make calls
between Thailand, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia for less than the normal
international rate, but it may be more expensive than the 2000 kip/min
general international rate from
Phones & Internet in
the Lao PDR – dial-up, broadband, satellite, optic fiber, ADSL,
4G WiMax, LTE, 3G UMTS, HSPA, HSPA+,
HSDPA, 2G GPRS, EDGE, voice and data
communications, USB air cards, fixed data, unlimited data cost, plans, ussd, sms
Main operators are Lao Telecom,
Beeline (ex-Tigo) and
Unitel who supply
various phone and internet services (mostly prepaid) including leased line,
ADSL, CDMA, WiFi, WiMax and
GPRS/EDGE/3G, 3.5G, HSPA or HSDPA
for GSM and 4G WiMax and also LTE networks. Laos
has been expecting two
4G/LTE networks (2.6GHz band) since 2011, but none in service by the end
of November 2013 from LTC or Beeline. See
relevant blog post. Beeline recently
introduced fibre optic internet to some Vientiane homes and
four mobile telecom operators are partly or fully owned by the Lao government;
call and data rates are similar and within agreed criteria to allow
equitable revenue share between them.
While Laos ISP 3G data cost per MB is
similar for 1 GB and 3GB monthly data usage, various plans (daily, weekly, monthly, unlimited)
accommodate short and longer term internet access by mobile phone, tablet or
USB dongle. Compare Lao data plans and prices per MB. There may be
reduced prices or promotions such as free SIM and/or free airtime or data or a
free microSD card
included when buying an air card or SIM from one of the 4 Lao mobile
page that lists common terminology, definitions and
mobile internet acronyms.
Planet Online Laos
has a 4G Mobile WiMax (2.5
in and around Vientiane only. 3-7 Mbps possible.
See data plans.
Lao Telecom 4G WiMax
may be operating but the LTE
service (appearing briefly at the ASEM Summit in November) has been
delayed until 2013. 20 base stations will cover the capital area and some
Speed unknown. Call
131 from a LaoTel phone, but don't expect much useful information; even less
on LaoTel's website.
3G data plans 5,000 kips per day,
up to 250,000 unlimited per month;
WiFi 4,000 kips/day.
See all LTC data plans.
Cost of HSPA modem 280,000 kips inc SIM and 200 MB data. Data SIM 5,000
Beeline also offers
home/office WiMax in certain areas of the capital with a range of
speeds and prices. See
Beeline WiMax plan upgrades.
In 2012 Beeline introduced
3.75G HSPA+ in the capital Vientiane, with Luang Prabang and Savannakhet
added since. With a high speed modem, performance is better than LTC, ETL
or Unitel, depending on location and local traffic. Limited daily, monthly plans. See all
Beeline data plans.
For GSM 900/1800/2100 MHz mobile networks, some areas of Laos
only have coverage from a single provider. Travellers are advised to carry SIMs for
more than one provider. ETL may be best, followed by LTC. GPRS data transfer cost is 1000 kips ($0.12) per megabyte.
3G cost varies depending on whether phone or data SIMs are
used. All providers offer various
cost-saving promotions and plans. Here are
Unitel's 'Sabaidee' plans.
User details are now
required for registration of Lao SIMs. They
can be used in any unlocked
device. Refill/recharge cards
are sold everywhere for LaoTel (M-Phone,
Ah Lo 3G Win Phone), ETL P-Phone, 3G Net, Beeline and Unitel StarPhone.
Some shops sell refill cards for Thai network SIMs which may be within signal range of Thai
mobile network cells along the Mekong River border with Thailand. Areas of Vientiane city centre
are opposite Nongkhai provincial town of Sri Chiangmai. Conversely, Lao mobiles also work in much of Nong Khai
itself as well as other towns and villages along the Mekong River opposite
Thai mobile coverage areas.
mobile internet access, Beeline, LTC, ETL
some UMTS HSDPA 3G-3.75G
services in Vientiane and Lao provincial cities, with 2G EDGE and GPRS as a
fallback in less-populated areas. Unitel downloads up to 5 Mbps –
faster in some areas than LaoTel and ETL. See all Laos ISP data plans and rates.
4G/LTE blog post.
For travel around
Laos, there are still areas where one or two
ISPs are better than others; it's as well to carry phone and/or data SIMs from more than
one operator. More on Laotel, Unitel, ETL
below. Planet 4G WiMax is currently available in Vientiane and
suburbs only, with speeds up to 10 Mbps, (much less in practice)
with prices from 200,000 kips per
See Planet data plans.
mobile phone SIMs
from major operators are cheap to buy
and some of the cost is given as free airtime. Local voice calls (including
3G video calls within Laos) are about 800 kips ($0.10) a minute,
although cheaper packages are available.
All international calls from Laos cost 2000 kips ($0.25) or less per minute.
Other services include text messaging (SMS),
MMS, video calling and internet. GPRS data 1000 kip per MB. 3G data cost is higher for
phones than for air cards with data SIMs.
VoIP services such as
Skype (iPhone/Android apps available) are not blocked in Laos; data charges apply unless
you have an unlimited data package, free WiFi or use low-cost internet
check kip balance on a Lao mobile call 122 or send
To identify a mobile phone SIM number, send *110# from the phone to
display its MSISDN number
– useful for giving friends outside Laos your full international code to
dial or send.
Add the + sign before the number to dial/SMS from overseas. See common mobile
network definitions and acronyms.
USB MODEMS, AIRCARDS,
To check account credit
or data balance
USB 3G modem,
look for USSD
on the menu interface (dashboard). This
is also one way
to refill a 3G
is the other.
Lao providers have different codes to cancel or deactivate a
MODEM DASHBOARD & DRIVERS:
After installation of a proprietary air card, copy its embedded software
to another location; in case of un-installation or subsequent failure
of the device's built-in NAND flash memory drive which can occur after
unlocking, most users won't be
able to reinstall or use the modem on the same or different computers.
Download Lao ISP USB 3G and
GPRS software (zip)
LTC (Windows, Linux, Mac) or
Unitel MF190 or
190S from our
server. Tigo Beeline uses
locked ZTE MF656A (14.4 Mbps) and MF668A (21 Mbps)
USB modems. Lao MF668A software
for PC and Mac. Generic software
and drivers for ZTE and Huawei USB 3G modems are
free downloads for Windows or
Mac OS X. Modem unlock codes
are available too, some free. For 4G LTE, a device with the
2,600MHz band will be needed; e.g. Huawei E392 (LTC) or ZTE
If a USB connection fails
unexpectedly, check Settings/Preference is set on Automatic mode.
If the UMTS/HSPA/WCDMA (3G) signal is too weak or unavailable, it allows fallback
to GPRS/EDGE (2G) without breaking the connection. Also check your
balances for kip or data and plan expiry time for validity –
especially with daily or weekly plans.
Android tablet computers will not work with all USB 3G modems; specific
drivers must be already embedded.
Huawei modems are more compatible than other brands, especially for Chinese iPads. Check the user manual for
compatible modems for your tablet.
Laos ISPs, Mobile Internet Service
Mobile frequency bands in Laos (and much of Asia)
are GSM/UMTS 900, 1800/2100 MHz; 4G LTE 2600MHz (not yet
available). Other countries: Thailand 850, 900, 1900/2100 MHz;
900/2100 MHz; US, Canada 850, 1900/850, 1700, 1900 MHz;
Australia 900,1800/850, 900, 2100.
Prices below are quoted in Lao Kips LAK. 2013 Exchange Rate LAK 8,000
= USD 1; LAK 250 = THB
1 (baht). Our Lao Banking
page has current rates for main convertible currencies.
Telecom – LTC 3G & 4G Air Card, UMTS, GSM, GPRS, EDGE, WiFi, WiMax
LaoTel offers 3G access in most provinces' main towns. Use a USB modem or HSPA SIM
slot or buy their current package of 7.2 Mbps HSPA USB Dongle Modem
+ 4 GB SD, data SIM, unlimited data for 30 days for
320,000 kip ($40). For
the 2,600MHz FDD/TDD LTE service in 2013, they will supply the
Huawei E392 multi-mode Surfstick for about $125. See proposed
LTC 4G LTE data plans and 4G related blog posts. 4G/LTE,
announced in 2011 and again in 2012, had not begun by the end of November 2013.
Beeline had also promised 4G LTE, but has since introduced a fibre
to home service around the capital.
Data SIMs are available separately for use with
any unlocked modem, 30,000 kips and 40,000 for MicroSIM. Only LTC has
these; both SIMs
are required as refilling the data Micro Sim is done using a LaoTel mobile
English version of the Lao Telecom website is still under reconstruction
after almost two years! Many navigation
links are marked "coming soon" and pages contain excessive spelling errors,
unnecessary even in Laos. If in Vientiane you visit
LaoTel's Namphou office on Chanthakoummane Road or Saylom Head
find (or can ask for) staff with reasonable English and technical skills and be able to get
service details and
subscription costs, test a USB modem
or buy one cheaply. However, LTC local and provincial office visits can be
difficult for non-Lao speakers – much like the web site.
Laotel 3G data SIM kip refill can be carried out by
mobile phone: *121*[3G SIM Number]*[Card PIN Number]#
then call/send. For the 3G air card, use the program to 'refill
money' with required amount of kips from Mphone cards e.g. 100,000 for
3GB data in/out for the next 30 days, then 'send query' (SMS) using one
of the following code sequences.
LaoTel APN: ltcnet, dialup *99# auto IP/DNS.
LaoTel 3G plans. Auto
configuration and refill is via the software on the ZTE MF 190S USB modem
sold by LTC. LaoTel USB software.
Both limited and unlimited 3G data plans; no known
issues other than max 1-2 Mbps.
Phone+data and data MicroSIM.
Telecom also offers WiFi at hotspots in Vientiane and some
other areas. Speed claims up to 5MBps. A
5-minute free demo (once per device) is available to check or
locate wifi signal availability.
LaoTel WiFi plans.
Telecom 4G. WiMax was under trial and due for launch in 2011. News is scant
and the project may be replaced by 4G/LTE due in 2013.
LTC WiMax plans and
4G/LTE blog post.
Laotel's ADSL 2.0 service (Unitel ADSL is similar but with
limited areas of coverage) has been further reduced in price for 2012,
512/256K for 130,000 kips per month.
ETL 3G NET Air Card – ZTE MF 180
(3.6 MB/s) Package
Simple to use, limited-only data plans for days
month. Speeds similar
to Lao Telecom. Phone+data or data Net SIM.
Currently the ZTE MF
180 USB modem
(unlockable) costs 250,000 kips
($31/940 baht) with data SIM (no voice calls) and 1.5GB free
data over 3 months. Download the
software supplied with the ETL modem. Up to 2MB/s download.
ETL APN: etlnet – Dialup number *99***1#. Recharge with P-phone cards then
send the code as an SMS to 333 (USSD query may not work) e.g.
D1 or M1 (valid for 1 day). DX or MX to cancel.
Data SIMs (SIM2 Teen)
can be used with any unlocked modem or phone, cost 20,000 kips. Call
cost across operators 300 kips/min, unlimited 3G data 4,000 kips/day.
See all ETL 3G data plans for
air cards and mobile phones.
Easy to lose credit and/or
connection if you don't understand Unitel 3G data plans. See below.
Faster than LTC, ETL.
Phone+data, data-only SIMs available.
Unitel 3G Phone, Air Card – ZTE MF 190S (7.2 MB/s) package
Unitel is a joint venture between the
Ministries of Defence of
Vietnam via Viettel and the Lao PDR via Lao Asia Telecom/LAT
/Star Telecom /StarPhone) with Unitel as the brand name.
See data plans.
Unitel supplies a 3G/3.5G HSPA/HSDPA
modem (not unlockable) and sold with their
3G data SIM (SIM
alone is 30,000 kip) plus 1.5GB free over 3 months for 250,000 kips ($31).
UMTS, HSPA+, HSPA, HSDPA, WCDMA, GPRS,
EDGE GSM network SIMs for data and SMS. Unitel download speeds
have decreased in the past few months and are sometimes as slow as LTC or ETL at
1-2Mbps, but 3-4Mbps or more is still possible. Unitel/StarPhone
refill cards are available from phone and small shops, while the
USB data SIMs (need to be activated) are usually only sold at
Unitel offices around the
country. Data only SIMs are different from mobile SIMs which cost
350 kip per MB of data, in a phone or the modem. Here are the original
Unitel Lao USB MF190 drivers and
for the current MF190S ZTE
modem they supply. Same spec, but the 190S cannot be unlocked.
Unitel HQ in Vientiane is on Rue Nongbone, a km or so outside the city.
Monday-Friday only. Some local offices may open on Saturdays. Customer service
109 or 021 901234 or 999888, but there is often congestion. Wait for
someone to answer and ask if they speak English. Some do.
Unitel data plans. More complicated than LTC and ETL,
a Unitel monthly USB plan (LT...) runs from the 1st to last
day of the calendar month. A monthly plan can be started on any day, but it will end at
midnight on the last day of that month. Cost and data is proportional e.g. start on
15th, cost and
data allowance will be 50% of the full rate. 50% credit balance stays in the
account and can be used for a new plan or to renew the same one (50% top-up
would be needed to pay for a new full month). Note that an MI phone data plan
can begin on any day. Free
data remaining at the end of a plan period is removed.
Note: At the end of the
period, you need to (1) recharge; (2) send SMS LT0 (zero)
to cancel the old plan; (3) send SMS LT[code] to start
or renew the service.
If you have a problem, call Unitel customer service
109 or 021 999888; ask for someone who speaks English; some delay or
difficulty getting the USB 3G service restored can be expected. In extreme
cases, with written complaint lodged and persistence, you may get some free
If a plan expires and
is not cancelled, future refill credit may be lost. At the
beginning of a new period the account will show a debit balance until
refilled with sufficient credit. The current plan will then continue. If for
example it is a weekly plan and is not used in that week (perhaps the user
left Laos temporarily), new credit will first be allocated to an expired
period and effectively lost. This should not happen if you
always send LT0 to cancel a plan when it
has expired or the data has been used before the validity period ends.
With no USB 3G data LT plan
set or if the free data has been used before the expiry date, as long as there is
credit in the account, internet connection can be maintained at a
flat rate of 90 kips/MB. Without an MI plan, the rate for
mobile phone 3G data is 350 kips/MB.
Unitel data plans.
3G air card credit refill can also be done using a Unitel
SIM mobile phone: *121*[3G SIM Number]*[Card PIN Number]# then
APN: unitel3g. Dialup *99#, settings auto. Data cost is much higher (350
a Unitel activated 3G phone SIM than for the USB stick/dongle modem
service with 3G data SIM. ZTE USB drivers for the
newer MF190S as
supplied by Unitel Lao with their air cards.
Unitel 3G data cost for mobiles: Phone
SIM cost 20,000 kips. 3G Activation: SMS [phone model] 3G to 209 for
auto install, confirm activation and receive plan codes. No plan 350
kips/MB. Monthly 100MB/15,000 kip; 500MB/40,000; 2GB/150,000; daily
Unitel 2G GPRS/EDGE
APN: startelecom. SMS 'GPRS [handset model]' to 113 for automatic setup;
if not successful, call 108 or 109 for support. The
Unitel Laos site also has
local office addresses. Data SIMs cost 30,000 kips.
Beeline 3G Air Cards: ZTE 656A,
MF 668A – HSPA+ up to 21Mbps
New SIM for phone+data or data-only. Current plan must be cancelled
after expiry, before renewal or when changing – or lose phone credit.
Highest Lao mobile telco speeds, depending on area, time of day.
Beeline Lao has countrywide
2G GPRS mobile
phone and data services. 3G HSPA+ began in January 2012 in Vientiane,
with Luang Prabang and Savannakhet in March).
For 3.5G Beeline sells locked ZTE sticks, the MF 656A (14.4Mbps) for
300,000 kips ($37.50) and an
£9.95) MF 668A (21Mbps) for 350,000 kips ($44).
In reality, expect up to 5 Mbps; with lower speed phones or modems, downloads may be similar to
ETL's 1-2 Mbps. A Beeline 4G/LTE network is
due to begin in November. See
New Beeline SIMs
have been introduced with the option of data-only use for USB modems. Cheap unlimited daily and monthly data plans
were also added, but limits have since been imposed. SIM cost
10,000 kips with 5,000 kips credit. See
plans and our blog post on
using the new SIM in an air card. Performance has decreased since
launch, partly due to the activities of some greedy 'unlimited' plan users.
Beeline APN: beelinenet. You can download the
Beeline GPRS/3G setup direct to your
phone, see the settings on the SIM menu or website. For
tethering it's a similar
procedure to ETL, but you may need to add the initialisation string: AT+CGDCONT=,,"beelinenet"
to your modem advanced settings. Dialup is *99#. Download Beeline Lao
ZTE MF 668A software.
For mobile devices, Beeline
offers various data plans up to 1.2GB per month, and also
unlimited data (limits have since been placed due to a few greedy users –
see plans) using a USB modem data SIM. Send SMS to 234
from mobile phone or modem
e.g. D1 to activate daily plan, DER D1 to cancel it, C to check the balance.
Beeline data plan for
mobile or USB, data cost is 300 kips/MB; this will quickly use up any
remaining phone credit if the plan expires and there is not sufficient kip credit to renew it, so best to recharge before expiry. Send DER [plan] to cancel the
before changing to a different one or if a data plan is no longer required.
Then any credit or refill will be available for phone calls plus GPRS data at 100
kips/Mb or 3G HSPA+ at 300 kips/Mb.
that a Beeline SIM that has been converted to data-only for use with
AD1 or AM1 plans cannot be changed back and used to make calls. Buy
another SIM (10,000 kips inc 5,000 credit).
Planet Online Laos, possibly of more interest to Vientiane residents
than visitors, has its own
ISP network providing broadband, WiFi and 4G mobile WiMAX (2.5GHz).
Download speeds ~5-8 Mbps. Their older 1-2 Mbps
wireless broadband service in Vientiane continues with increased
data allowance but may become obsolete as
coverage extends to a wider area around the capital and in future to
other provinces. Various
proprietary hardware options and
Planet WiMax data plans to cater for
indoor or outdoor personal and business
use. Faster downloads than most 3G services, but usually well below the WiMax
mobile maximum of 10 Mbps as more users subscribe and traffic increases.
Speed tests show up to 8 Mbps from Hanoi and Bangkok, depending on time of
GPRS/EDGE for ETL, LaoTel
& Unitel CDMA Mobile
GPRS: Before August 31 when ETL 3G NET became available, ETL had
via mobile or ZTE MF180 USB modem. ETL APN: etlnet. Get
ETL GPRS setup settings. EDGE
requires no extra settings. If it is available the connection will show
as E, otherwise it will remain at G for GPRS. To use
your phone as a modem with an ETL SIM, connect it to the computer by USB cable or Bluetooth and
Windows should detect it. In Control Panel, Phones & Modem add AT+CGDCONT=1,"ip","etlnet","",0,0 in the Advanced Settings
for the device.
Windows Network Connections, create a dialup connection and set the phone number as
*99***1# Set/change the connection speed to 570K or higher. TCP/IP
& DNS addresses should be allocated automatically.
LaoTel Win Phone, Unitel UniHome portable CDMA phones. WinPhone can
connect to the internet with a special Huawei USB cable (if you can find one). Drivers are on
a supplied CD or LaoTel's website. Set up a
new dialup connection. Phone number: #777, Username:
Password: win. To top up a Win Phone account, follow the instructions on a LaoTel
refill card. For a balance check call
122. When a Lao voice asks you to choose a language (pasaa) press 2 for English
and continue. You can also key the code in without voice.
Unitel's UniHome Phone is similar to Win Phone but is a voice-only service
Communication Development in Lao PDR
Rich and poor alike in Laos use
mobile phones now that prices have dropped to below $30 for basic brand
name as well as Chinese and
unlocked handsets bought locally or in Thailand.
Internet usage is increasing rapidly as Lao youth discovers social
networking, chatting and wireless broadband coverage widens. Cell phones are
seen everywhere. By 2011 there were an estimated
3.5 million cell phone users in Laos, about 60% of the population.
This is still quite low by world standards, but many homes in rural,
mountainous areas are
still without electricity. Mobile handsets are seen almost permanently
clamped to a Lao
ear, whether the user is on foot, riding a motorcycle (or buffalo!) and of
Android Phones and Tablets in Laos
Laos is one
of many countries with pirated software, music and other
CDs as well as cheap Chinese copies of popular brand mobile phones and tablets
including ripoff iPhones and iPads ('chiPads' are
Android too)! Chinese Android tablets
(including iPad-badged copies)
may come with multi-language options but not Lao. "Chi-Pads" are sold in
Vientiane at Talat Sao Mall and Chinese-owned shops for around
$90-120. If they actually
work anything like a genuine one, (some do to a degree, others don't at all) and cost 15-25% of the price, then
buying one may be a risk worth taking; just don't rely on these copies
exclusively and always
BEFORE BUYING A CHINESE COPY MOBILE PHONE OR TABLET!
Samsung, iPad and other brand name mobiles and tablets are available in stores like K Plaza, LaoMobile, Jiro Computer
and MacinLao. See more below under shops. A
Lao Language Pack for Android Market-enabled devices is available
free at AndroidZoom.com.
Using a Thai SIM in
mobile operators like AIS, DTAC, Orange or True
cells will be within signal range in border areas, so Thai SIMs can be used for both telephone
and internet access. Some Lao residents have
dual SIMs and mobiles for
Laos and Thailand. In
Vientiane a Thai SIM can be used in certain areas, especially near the Mekong River;
Vientiane city is opposite the Thai town of Sri-chiangmai (Nongkhai
Province); other Lao locations near the Thai border such as Paksan and Pakse.
Thai 3G internet from AIS and True (maybe others) is
now available in urban areas of Nongkhai and Udonthani.
Similarly, Lao mobiles can be used in other country border areas like Nongkhai,
Thailand which is near Vientiane. There are many areas where Lao
borders Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and
China. Note that buying a mobile phone in Laos, some brands including
Nokia may not have Thai characters on the keypad, whereas in Thailand, all
computers and phones are supplied for Thai/English use, also suitable for
most Lao. Lao or Thai keyboard stickers are available.
Thai SIM refill cards can also be bought in
convenience stores and mobile phone shops. International Roaming is also available
on several of the Thai and Lao cell phone networks but due to the expense of this service
it is better to purchase Lao SIMs.
Laos telecommunications and IT improvements result from joint ventures
between Thai, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Australian private enterprise and the Lao Government.
Tigo (now Beeline), ETL and Unitel (StarPhone) are
the main Lao mobile phone operators offering a variety of services
including internet access via GPRS/EDGE, 3G, CDMA, WiFi,
4G WiMax wireless broadband and ADSL in some areas. You can connect direct from a
suitable phone or use the phone for tethering a modem to your laptop or PC.
cities and provincial towns, apart from 3G phone and modem service, there are
internet shops with dialup,
ADSL, broadband or wi-fi connections, free or paid from $0.50 an
satellite in outlying areas, WiFi hotspots are increasing
especially in popular foreign tourist places like Vangvieng, either
free or about 300 kip/min ($2 per hour) in
Lao residents of main towns have options for internet connection by landline dialup, ADSL or
fiber-optic cable, wireless broadband, wifi, WiMax from the main telecom
Laos is still well
behind many of its neighbours in terms of speed and price, although 3G is
more widely available than in NE Thailand. Most
internet communication outside the country via links to Thailand, Vietnam,
China and Cambodia now pass through the Lao National Information Centre (NIC
Gateway). However, there are very few website restrictions imposed by the government.
Home or Business
Telephone (PSTN) Lines in Lao PDR
Depending on physical location, Lao Telecom, ETL or Unitel
can provide regular
phone, fax or dialup (even ADSL and leased
lines for internet) for home or office. Application should be made to their
respective offices. They
will do an area inspection and advise you of cost and time for installation (maybe
fax service, if you don't have a fixed phone line, an alternative is a
the LaoTel Win Phone
CDMA terminal version, which
doesn't have a handset, but has inputs for a standard handset, fax
machine and PC. In certain areas outside the city, an external
antenna may be required.
Significant expansion of terrestrial
telephone networks (land lines or fiber-optic cables) for
eventual nationwide coverage is unlikely in Laos, due to the large
rural and mountainous areas and low population density. Wireless
systems for communications and
data transfer cost less and are relatively cheap to install and maintain,
in developing countries especially.
Unlocking USB Modems and Mobile Cell Phones
Many locked USB modems and
can be unlocked from a network by several methods including
hardware, a cable or with a software utility download. An
unlocked device can be used globally with any mobile network. Some devices
can be unlocked free but most require online payment or purchase of
credits for the unlock code for a single
For example, £9.95 ($15) will unlock a ZTE
190, ETL MF 180 or Beeline MF 668A at Unlocked Dongle UK;
also other ZTE and Huawei variants. After unlocking, any data SIM works in
these modems. Lao ISP versions of ZTE software lets APNs be added and
unitel3g, etlnet, beelinenet and ltcnet; Lao 3G
SIMs cost 10-35,000 kips.
Note: Install only one dashboard version on
a computer; different provider modem/SIM may work. If not, replace the
SIM in the modem/software combo and select the correct network in Settings. There will be a conflict
if you try and install more than one version of ZTE software per machine.
the current version before changing to another.
Unlocking a USB modem may
destroy its embedded software (ISP dashboard version, microSD and other drivers)
but it will work normally (without SD card) using a copy or e.g. ZTE generic
software. Before attempting an unlock, make a copy of the modem
the first time you install it. Then you can use the dongle on any
computer. Once installed, the program will recognise the modem if or when
it's plugged in, and the dashboard will load.
If you need Laos USB modem software,
Unitel 190 or
Beeline 668A zip files; also
drivers and programs.
Satellite Broadband Internet in Laos is available through Lao Telecom
who have a gateway to the Thaicom IPSTAR
satellite. Some Lao organisations and businesses including hotels and
guesthouses use this to offer WiFi to their clients and, for example,
guests at the
Zen Namkhan Boutique Resort which
is only 20 km
from the centre of Luang Prabang, but outside
the main broadband services
in Lao's built-up areas. However, for the subscriber, iPStar from
LaoTel is expensive and slow at $70 or more per month for a 256/128K
connection; that's according to a leaflet, but the LaoTel website showed in
August 2010, $360 per month plus equipment deposit. The LTC website is all
but useless for English speakers.
TIP: Google Mail
is an easy way to manage email on laptops, tablets and GPRS/3G phones. If you have a
Google Account you can download the GMail Mobile
application to your phone or tablet (genuine ones may already have it
installed) or access it via browser. Send and receive mail from all your
accounts through POP/forwarding settings in your Google Mail account. There
Apple and Android Apps available for GMail and Google Calendar sync.
and Thai language and script for PCs and mobile phones
Lao Script for Windows is a
commercial product available for Lao keyboard input (usually standard US or
US/Thai keyboards with Lao key stickers). Google.la has Lao and English language options.
Mobile phones sold in Laos have English,
Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and other language options. Few if any have Lao
but most local
users select Thai language for phone menus and SMS text messaging, although
more users such as students are becoming
proficient in English too.
Lao Phone Shops,
Mobile, Electrical/Electronic Dealers, Sales, Service
See warning above regarding copy phones. If you
have a Nokia or other mobile phone or camera and are
having memory or file copy protection problems when
upgrading a TransFlash or MicroSD card in your device,
then visit our MicroSD page. There are
many solutions. Unfortunately, one of them is to replace the SD card
with a new one.
The Laos Nokia distributor has a Vientiane
shop and service centre in Dong Palane Road, a short distance
from the traffic lights behind the Morning Market, near the K
Plaza Shopping Mall (part of Kolao) a reliable dealer in leading-brand
Korean and Japanese consumer goods, TVs, cameras, air conditioners etc like
Samsung, Panasonic, Sanyo. Lao Mobile Group has outlets in
Vientiane (Dong Palane), Luang Prabang and Pakse, offering main brands Nokia,
Apple, Samsung, LG and HTC, as do Kouang Telecom (Kwang,
Kuang) 021-216078 on LP Road near Fuji Restaurant or KT
Sihom, near TMB corner; also Jiro Computer near Lao-ITECC.
MacinLao by ME specialises in Apple sales and
service near the corner of
Setthathirath and Khunbolum
Roads. The Morning Market (Talat Sao Shopping Mall)
has outlets selling mainly cheap Chinese copy
phones and tablets. Beware the limited features of these ripoff
devices and don't expect warranties, after sales support or service. If it
breaks, throw it away and buy another!
Television, Cable and Satellite TV
National Television service provides a limited amount of
government-originated content Most viewers in Laos have access to national
and commercial Thai TV
channels either by cable or satellite. Most 'lowland' Lao can understand Thai and the cultures are
similar, so Thai movies, soap operas, talk and game shows are very popular.
Outlying districts rely on a satellite service of mixed Lao, Chinese,
Vietnamese or Cambodian origin.
Several satellite-based services exist;
Thailand's True (formerly UBC)
offers the most, but costs about $60 per month plus equipment deposit.
TV (joint Lao/Chinese) is the largest local cable provider. Available in Vientiane city and surrounding villages,
the service costs around $100 for installation and the first 3 months viewing, then
about $3 per month. Several language groups are catered for
besides Lao. There's English from the UK
(BBC), USA (CNN, CNBC),
Australia (ABC Australia Network), S Korea (Arirang) and
China (CCTV); all
Thai TV channels including several True (UBC), Vietnamese, Cambodian,
Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan (Chinese language), Japanese, Russian, French and
German channels are all
shown. Thai movies, Star or Fox Movies, HBO, and several Asian (Indian/Chinese/Singapore) movie, music
and several sports channels including Star Sport and ESPN are there too.
About 35 channels in all. There is also a digital terrestrial
service in Vientiane, with fewer channels. Several other cable operators service cities
and towns in Laos. Most are Chinese or Vietnamese owned and operated, so
English language channels are few.
Viewing & Downloading UK or
USA TV Broadcasts while Overseas
Free download and
trial. $25 to buy.
US citizens and others living abroad can see their favorite shows on
computer by using
a Virtual Private Network or VPN service such as
StrongVPN. This can be set for a USA, UK
or European IP address on the same account; cost is less than $5 per month.
Apart from anonymous browsing, bypassing national site blocking etc, you can
get free access to
BBC iPlayer, ITV, Channel 4, 5
On Demand plus main US
network channels and sites like Hulu. Very easy to set up or change server
country location. Many different country IP addresses available.
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 January 2012).
Logistics – freight
transport, postal services by road, rail and air.
Thailand to Laos Railroad Service – see
Lao Travel Page
Thai Air Cargo has an office near
Wattay Airport. Freight forwarding agencies and couriers like DHL, FedEx, EMS have
offices or representatives in the Lao PDR. They are able to pick
up and deliver
goods globally. Shipments from Vientiane are
Thailand, by air to Bangkok or by road and rail via Nongkhai.
tracking is available for couriers including EMS.
Lao PDR Postcodes
Zone 1 Vientiane Urban
01000 Chanthabouly (Central)
01010 Sikhottabong District
01030 Sisattanak District
01120 Hatxaifong District
01140 Naxaythong District
01160 Xaysettha District
01170 Xaythany District
Zone 2 Other Provinces
10000 Vientiane (Province)
Zone 3 Outer Provinces
Post Office Parcels (.pdf)
Laos does have post codes, but they are hardly used and the
town/province name suffices. Although there are letter collection boxes, there is no postal delivery service in Laos.
Post Office Boxes are available for mail collection at main and some district post offices; also Post Restante.
Packages are held for collection at main post offices,
with a notification slip left in a local PO Box.
Vientiane main post office is near the Morning Market Mall. Online
tracking is highly recommended for an expected consignment from abroad.
Passport or ID is required to collect packages. Some items may
attract customs duty.
Electronic Banking in
only about 6 years since the first Lao ATM appeared in Vientiane. Now they are
in all provinces, but some outer towns may have a single machine that uses the PLUS and Cirrus networks (VISA and MasterCard).
Local credit card merchant and customer accounts are available, although
online banking services are limited. See our
Lao Banking page for further details.
You can help
Lao youngsters learn to read books in their
own language and also
in English; the government education system is badly
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