Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mobile Roaming in South Korea

Cols is going with Caitlin and the folks to South Korea tomorrow for 8 days. Being a CDMA country, I gave both Globe and Smart a call to determine if their service can be used there. I called Smart first. The wait time for an operator to pickup the phone was terribly long. I had to hang-up my wireless handset, and go to a speaker phone so that it can play its music loop again and again while I wait endlessly for an operator to pickup.

When I did finally got to talk to someone (after maybe 10 to 15 mins of waiting), the guy told me that he is sure the Smart SIM will work in Korea, but the user has to rent a local CDMA unit and transfer the SIM there. Such phone units can be rented supposedly at the airport. This gave me an idea -- our Bayan Wireless Landline is actually a Huawei CDMA phone. Maybe it will work. I opened the unit and tried to plug in Cols' Smart SIM. To my amazement, the Bayan Wireless Landline has no SIM inside even though there is a SIM slot!

This made me wonder -- can network operators actually provide phone service even without a SIM? They can always identify the handset anyway by its unique manufacturer's id (the IMEI) anyway. Apparently, that's what Bayan is doing with their CDMA/Wireless landline service. They don't bother with SIM's. All contacts, call details, short messages, etc. are just stored directly on the phone memory. Can Globe/Smart also do the same if they really wanted to? Or is this something specific to CDMA? In any case, the phone seem to be locked to Bayan as there was no menu option to change network operator settings.

So I tried my luck this time with the Globe call center. The wait time to get an operator to answer the call was way much shorter than Smart's. Maybe 5 mins or less -- either Globe has more call center operators, or Smart's subscriber-to-operator ratio is just so much higher. The Globe operator put me on hold while he checked some documents on their side. Then he got back to me and said that any 3G-capable phone should work in South Korea.

Hmmm... This can mean that one of the two info given to me by the two different call center operators is wrong. Or it can mean that Globe has a GSM-based roaming partner in Korea, while Smart doesn't. Seems unlikely though.

Cols called up Shella who went there last year. According to her, she didn't notice because their phones are Nokia N-Series phones which are quad-band. And it seems that Quad-band phones can work with UMTS signals and are compatible with South Korea network operators. Well, we'll find out tomorrow when they get to Korea if they can reach us.


Dick Chiang said...

Looks like Globe guy was correct. My Nokia 6210 Classic 3G phone was able to roam in Korea using Cols' Smart SIM!

Babycakesss said...

Ayun, question lang. Any 3G phone with globe broadband will work in SK? :)

Dick Chiang said...

I believe so although we only tried it with Smart and not Globe.

Iwant said...

Any phone that supports WCDMA2100 will work in South Korea. Hope this helps!