Nepal has three GSM mobile operators:
- Nepal Telecom (state-owned)
- Ncell (owned by Axiata)
- Smart Cell (by Smart Telecom, limited coverage on 2G, 4G/LTE)
Additionally United Telecom Limited (UTL) provides limited mobility CDMA-based services which is incompatible to GSM devices and not mentioned any further.
2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz and 3G on 2100 MHz. In 2016 the government of Nepal has begun the process of converting existing wireless licences to technology neutral permits, enabling operators to use their current 900 MHz for 3G and free their 1800 MHz frequency holdings to offer 4G/LTE services. 4G/LTE has been launched by all three providers in 2017.
Have in mind that given its mountainous territory, coverage can be very spotty and data speeds extremely slow outside the Kathmandu central valley or Pokhara.
All SIM cards are registered in Nepal at the point of purchase. So you have to go to an outlet of the operator and show your passport. They will take a photo of you and copy your passport there. You can speed up things, if you provide a passport-sized photo and a photocopy of the face side of your passport, as their equipment is often not working. Furthermore, you have to fill out a customer application form.
Note that Ncell states prices with taxes already added and for Nepal Telecom you need to add 13% taxes for the final price.
Nepal Telecom (NTC) Edit
Nepal Telecom (NTC) is the state owned, national provider in Nepal. It has a monopoly on landlines and broadband, but competes with Ncell for mobile customers. In 2017 it held about 50% of the mobile market.
NTC uses 900 Mhz for 2G and 2100 Mhz for 3G. Simultanously, it runs a CDMA network too. GSM-coverage is slightly lower than Ncell. Until 2017 only about 60 3G sites have been installed and on air including Banepa, Bhaktpur, total 59 sites in Kathmandu and 1 site in Pokhara.
4G/LTE has started as first provider in Nepal in 2017 on 1800 MHz only in the Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara only opened for prepaid. NTC signed 40,000 LTE users in two weeks alone. Note that Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 7 devices are currently not compatible with NT’s 1800 MHz LTE network. The telco says it's working with the manufacturer to remedy this.
Their prepaid card is called "Namaste" (Welcome). It is available in their stores and sales outlets for Rs. 90. It contains a welcome letter with SIM serial number, mobile phone number, PIN/PUK numbers and security cod, an User's Guide and the SIM card with Rs. 50 airtime.
For their 4G/LTE service you need a new 4G/LTE compatible SIM that is sold in their shops in the coverage areas of the Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara. To activate 4G service dial *444#.
Your Namaste account is instantly activated, when you make your first call. Either you can dial 1414 or any other number for the first call. Your first call will be diverted to Nepal Telecom Management Centre and you will hear voice prompt from our system. Along with the Namaste service information, you will be given the option of choosing the language (English or Nepali) at this time. Make choice according to your need. After the release of this call you can use the Namaste service.
Recharge cards are available in five denominations of Rs. 50, Rs. 100, Rs. 200, Rs.500 and Rs.1000 giving 60 days to 2 years of validity.
Data feature packages Edit
NTC's default prepaid data rate is Rs. 1 per MB (plus 13% taxes). They have introduced these data packages for 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE (add 13% taxes):
|10 MB||2 days||Rs. 8||DATA10MB|
|50 MB||10 days||Rs. 35||DATA50MB|
|200 MB||30 days||Rs. 130||DATA200MB|
|500 MB||30 days||Rs. 300||DATA500MB|
|1 GB||30 days||Rs. 500||DATA1GB|
|3 GB||60 days||Rs. 1290||DATA3GB|
|5 GB||90 days||Rs. 1800||DATA5GB|
|10 GB||180 days||Rs. 2800||DATA10GB|
For activation text code to 1415. Add 13% taxes to all prices.
More information Edit
- APN: ntnet
- Website: http://www.ntc.net.np
Ncell is the no.2 in Nepal with 46% share and was renamed 2010 from Mero Mobile. In 2015/6 it was sold from Telia to the Malaysian Axiata Group giving it a new logo.
Its 2G is on 900 and 1800 Mhz and reaches 90% of population, 3G is on 2100 Mhz in about 20 of the biggest towns. Ncell Coverage Map. Ncell is the better provider in the country, but there are still many areas uncovered and don't expect high speeds. Generally, it's coverage is a bit better than Nepal Telecom's.
The start of their 4G/LTE was further delayed in 2017 by taxation issues and was finally launched in June 2017 on 900 and 1800 MHz in the Kathmandu Valley, including the areas of Nagarkot, Banepa and Dhulikhel. In summer 2017 the cites of Biratnagar, Birtamode, Damak, Dharan, Bharatpur, Hetauda, Birjung, Bhairahawa, Butwal and Nepalgunj were added to the 4G/LTE network. In early 2018 already 21 cities and 15% of the population are covered by 4G/LTE. All Ncell customers possessing a USIM card will be able access the company’s LTE network.
Ncell SIM cards can be bought from a number of street stores, and require a passport photocopy (which the vendor will make) and a passport photo (which you bring). Some stores also take two thumbprints on the application form: Ncell Store Locators.
The price for starter pack is Rs. 99 with Rs. 50 of credit and 60 domestic texts, 40 domestic minutes and 20 MB of data. You can purchase top-up scratch cards from Rs.10. For top-ups over Rs. 100, you get 5-12% bonus on top. They have two tariff lines for prepaid called Sajilo and Ramro, which don't make a difference for data.
To top-up by scratch card, type *102*<voucher code>#. For balance check enter *101#. Also strangely the recharge cards sold in shops (in amount of Rs. 50, 100, 200, 500) don't give you the full amount, again due to some tax reasons, so you actually get something like Rs. 49.02 credit for the Rs. 50 recharge card.
Data feature packages Edit
Default tariff is Rs. 3.39 per MB depending on base plan, so better get one of these packs:
|Price||All day data||4G Bonus||Validity|
|Rs. 10||30 MB||30 MB||1 day|
|Rs. 30||100 MB||100 MB||3 days|
|Rs. 50||200 MB||200 MB||3 days|
|Rs. 70||250 MB||250 MB||7 days|
|Rs. 100||500 MB||500 MB||7 days|
|Rs. 300||1.25 GB||1.25 GB||30 days|
|Rs. 500||2.5 GB||2.5 GB||30 days|
|Rs. 1000||10 GB||10 GB||30 days|
Unlike Nepal Telcom with Ncell all taxes are included. For activation dial *123# and select to appropriate option. Once the volume in your data pack is over, the standard charge will apply unless you buy a new pack. To know the remaining data balance, dial *901#. Overuse rate is Rs. 1 per MB as long as a package is valid.
For nighttime use only between 11pm and 5am these night packages are released:
|Price||Night Data||4G Bonus||Validity|
|Rs. 10||120 MB||120 MB||1 night|
|Rs. 30||400 MB||400 MB||3 night|
|Rs. 50||800 MB||800 MB||3 nights|
|Rs. 70||1 GB||1 GB||7 nights|
|Rs. 100||2 GB||2 GB||7 nights|
|Rs. 300||5 GB||5 GB||30 nights|
|Rs. 500||10 GB||10 GB||30 nights|
|Rs. 1000||40 GB||40 GB||30 nights|
Alternatively, Ncell offers these "unlimited" data packages, which will be throttled, when you have used up all included data:
- 1 GB for 30 days: Rs. 789.87
- 5 GB for 30 days: Rs. 2258.87
- 10 GB for 30 days: Rs. 3388.87
All rates are including 13% taxes now. Activation is by *17123#. After using up data, speed will be throttled to 32 kbps or you can buy a new package anytime.
Data-only SIM Edit
Ncell sells a data-only SIM in connection with a USB dongle called Ncell Connect. It's unclear, if you can get the SIM without the modem. The dongle is sold at Rs. 2699 (+13% taxes) with 500 MB data included. Default data is at Rs. 2.26 per MB (tax incl.) and following monthly packs are offered:
- 500 MB: Rs. 450.87 - activation: text '500 MB' to 9009
- 1 GB: Rs. 789.87 - activation: text '1 GB' to 9009
- 5 GB: Rs. 2258.87 - activation: text '5 GB' to 9009
Taxes are included. To check data balance of your package, text 'status' to 9009.
Axiata roaming offer Edit
As Ncell now belongs to the Axiata group, it offers discounted roaming on their other networks in the region: Robi in Bangladesh, Smart in Cambodia, XL Axiata in Indonesia, Celcom in Malaysia, Dialog in Sri Lanka and M1 in Singapore. "Unlimited" data roaming is given out for Rs. 100 per day.
To activate the service, dial *17129# and follow instructions. Roaming service must be activated prior to leaving Nepal. Standard roaming charges will be applicable, if you are connected to other networks while roaming.
More information Edit
- APN: web
- Website: http://www.ncell.com.np
Smart Cell (by Smart Telecom) Edit
Fixed-wireless operator Smart Telecom was granted a licence in 2013 allowing it to expand into the mobile market. So far it only has coverage in a few provinces (coverage map) and can't be recommended for travelling. They only held 4.4% of the mobile market in 2017.
They are on 2G/GSM on 1800 MHz only. In May 2017 a licence to use 4G/LTE was granted to Smart and in October 2017 Smart has finally launched its long-awaited 4G/LTE service, with the company stating that it is now live in Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Pokhara. The new 4G service offers customers speeds of up to 70 Mbps. Smart Telecom has been granted 10 MHz of frequencies in the 1800 MHz band, while its two competitors Nepal Telecom (NT) and Ncell have only been allocated 5 MHz each in this spectrum band.
They sell two SIM cards at Rs. 99 in their starter called Sath Sath Smart Cell Pack containing Rs. 25 credit. For their new 4G be sure to get a 4G enabled SIM.
Recharge cards are sold in values of Rs. 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000. Larger cards give a special bonus of 10-35%. For instance the Rs.100 face value is Rs.98.04 after taxes and added by a 15% bonus of Rs.16.96. To top-up by card, enter *122*<PIN Code>#.
Data feature packages Edit
Default 2G data rate is Rs. 0.50 per MB and can be added by these packages:
|unlimited||1 day||Rs. 19||*141*3*1*1#|
|unlimited||7 days||Rs. 109||*141*3*2*1#|
|unlimited||15 days||Rs. 189||*141*3*3*1#|
|unlimited||30 days||Rs. 299||*141*3*4*1#|
|500 MB||7 days||Rs. 58||*141*3*2*2#|
|750 MB||15 days||Rs. 98||*141*3*3*2#|
|1 GB||30 days||Rs. 148||*141*3*4*2#|
For their new 4G/LTE these packages with data are sold:
|150 MB||1 day||Rs. 15||*141*6*1*1#|
|1 GB||7 days||Rs. 85||*141*6*2*1#|
|1.5 GB||15 days||Rs. 145||*141*6*3*1#|
|2 GB||30 days||Rs. 235||*141*6*4*1#|
More information Edit
- APN: Smart
- Website: http://www.smarttel.com.np