Afterword

ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mobile data plans (K2 #17)

Question of the Week
I want to connect to the Internet using the mobile network. Which package should I choose?
-- Dorji, Haa

Answer
More and more people in Bhutan use their phones to connect to the Internet. Both mobile operators (Bhutan Telecom and TashiCell) offer a few data schemes, and selecting the appropriate one can be confusing. I summarized the best options in the following table, and I'll also share a few tips on selecting the one that's right for you.


OptionCost (Nu.)Notes
Pay-per-use3 per MB (B-Mobile)1
10 per MB (TashiCell)1
Postpaid and Prepaid
"Lite" Package (B-Mobile only)149 / Month for first 300 MB
0.3 per extra MB
Postpaid only
Unlimited Package777 / Month (TashiCell)
999 / Month (B-Mobile)
Postpaid only
(1) Rates are rounded to the nearest Nu

If your usage is occasional - a few emails or Facebook chats here and there - go for pay-per-use. There are no recurring fees and you'll never be charged if you don't use data. With prepaid, you can easily control your expenses. If you are a postpaid customer, however, you might sometimes be shocked by the monthly bill, so use your phone's data counter to avoid surprises. The rates are Nu. 3 per MB for B-Mobile and Nu. 10 per MB for TashiCell. This is the option that will fit most customers.

At the other extreme are the unlimited packages, available only for postpaid customers and usually appropriate for "heavy users". TashiCell charges a lucky Nu. 777 per month for unlimited usage. If you use more than 75MB/month, it makes sense to opt for this package, as that's the break-even point compared to their pay-per-use rates.

For B-Mobile's unlimited package you'll have to shell out Nu. 999 per month. However, most B-Mobile postpaid data customers will want to opt for the "Lite" package. For a very reasonable Nu. 149 per month you get 300 MB, and then only Nu. 0.3 for each additional MB. The only reason to prefer the unlimited package over the "Lite" is if you use more than 3 GB monthly. If that's the case, consider checking into the nearest Internet rehab centre...

Note that B-Mobile also offers two other packages - "Easy" and "Supreme" - but according to my calculations, not only do they offer no benefit over the "Lite" package, but you might actually find yourself worse off if you select them. If you are currently subscribed to one of these two packages, save yourself some money by rushing into the nearest B-Mobile office and downgrading your package to "Lite".

Two more factors to consider when choosing a provider are speed and coverage. While both networks offer either "2G" or the faster "2.5G" in their area of operation, Bhutan Telecom also offers "3G", the fastest technology, but only in Thimphu. Also, make sure that the provider's coverage includes your anticipated location.

Finally, check the online data calculator at www.att.com/standalone/data-calculator where you can estimate your monthly data usage.

Readers are encouraged to submit technology-related questions to boaz@thimphutech.com