Enjoying the Gigabytes in Hanoi

Back in 2014 I had a peak experience in global roaming. LTE was becoming available everywhere I went across the globe, my smartphone supported most LTE bands in Europe, the US and Asia and my mobile network operator of choice started a global roaming offer. While the roaming offer ‘only’ includes 150 MB for a week for around 12 Euros (infinitely re-bookable) it has made me independent of crappy Wifi connectivity at hotels and meeting venues and of the hassle organizing a local SIM card. Unfortunately since that time my operator had to make a few exceptions to that global data roaming offer and Vietnam, the country I recently visited was unfortunately among them. At 80 cents per 50 kbytes of data, switching mobile data on even only for checking emails was absolutely out of the question.

hanoi3On the other hand, it forced me to do something I haven’t done for the past two years which is buying a local SIM card. Fortunately, this proved to be much simpler than anticipated. When arriving at Hanoi airport it only took me 5 minutes to get a data-only SIM with 3.5 GB of data on it for around 8 euros. LTE hasn’t arrived in Vietnam yet so I was a bit afraid that the 3G networks there might be somewhat overloaded. Again, fortunately, that was not the case. The density of base stations in Hanoi seems to be en par with other big cities in the world and I easily got well over 10 Mbit/s in the downlink and 3-4 Mbit/s in the uplink during daytime and still over 7 Mbit/s in the downlink in the evening as shown in the screenshot on the left. Apart from using it for applications that were not particularly time, delay or jitter sensitive I made a lot of Skype video and VoWifi calls worth several hours over 3G in that week and quality was always excellent. I have to say I was very positively surprised!

There is a saying that there is no gain without pain and it fits this experience. I wouldn’t have gone out to look for a SIM card if the roaming offer of my home network operator would have been valid in Vietnam. It would have saved me 20 minutes of research at home and 5 minutes at Hanoi airport buying the SIM card at 7 in the morning but I would have restricted myself to much less if I had been limited to 150 MB for 12 euros and still would have used 5 or 6 of those packages during the week. In the end all network operators involved have left money on the table because I would have been willing to spend much more if they had been willing to come together and make me a better roaming offer. Something to think about… Maybe next time then. Or perhaps I have acquired a taste again for finding local offers when traveling outside Europe…