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Bhutan

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Basics Edit

The Kingdom of Bhutan has two mobile network operators:

  • B-Mobile (by Bhutan Telecom, state-owned)
  • TashiCell (privately owned)

2G/GSM is on 900 MHz on both providers and 1800 MHz on TashiCell, 3G up to HSPA+ on 850 and 2100 MHz in the major towns only. B-Mobile has started 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz (B3) and TashiCell on 700 MHz (B28).

Be aware that data speeds can be slow outside of the capital. B-Mobile has the better coverage; its numbers start with 17. TashiCell has a more limited coverage; its numbers start with 77.

Regulations Edit

Although Bhutan remains relatively closed to international tourism only allowing in a contingency, as a visitor you are free to buy a prepaid SIM card. Officially, you need to give them a passport copy and an additional photo of you. In their airport offices, they are able to do the copy work for themselves. Additionally, you have to fill out a form like this (in PDF). Airport offices might be a bit swifter with the paperwork, but you can go to any office of the operators.

B-Mobile (by Bhutan Telecom) Edit

Bhutan Telecom

State-owned incumbent Bhutan Telecom Limited (BT) is the leading provider of telecommunications and internet services in the Kingdom. Besides fixed line telephony and internet services, it provides mobile services under its brand B-Mobile. It has the larger network with more users: 3G coverage list. 2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 850 MHz and 4G/LTE on 1800 MHz.

Bhutan Telecom has now officially launched 4G/LTE services in the towns of Thimphu, Paro, Phuentsholing, Wangdue and Punakha. Customers can convert their existing SIM to 4G free of cost. Bhutan Telecom plans to soon expand its 4G service to other Dzongkhags and Satellite towns.

Availability Edit

As soon as you arrive in Paro Internatl. Airport in Bhutan you can avail a prepaid SIM card by just giving them your passport number and filling up a simple form. After completing immigration procedures, you'll see Bhutan Telecom counter right besides the money exchange counters.

Most of the time they don't have any Micro/Nano SIM, so if your phone doesn't take regular size SIM card, you have to cut it. They sell two different SIM cards:

  • Tourist SIM
  • Prepaid SIM

Both SIM cards are sold for Nu. 100 which is the preloaded credit too. The tourist SIM has major disadvantages though. It's only valid for one month and can't be extended and no data packages can be activated on it.

For topping up, recharge vouchers in form of scratch cards are available at B-Mobile customer service counters and dealers in the town. Denominations of Nu. 25, 50, 100, 200, 300 and 500 are sold. Furthermore, a electronic system of recharges called Eload is available through many verdors for any top-up from Nu. 5 to Nu. 500 giving 14-60 days of validity.

Default data rate Edit

Pay per use rate: A flat rate of Nu. 0.1 will be charged up to 50 KB after which the normal rate of 0.0003 per KB will be apply. This adds up to Nu. 0.3 per MB and is the only rate available for the tourist SIM.

Data feature packages Edit

On the regular prepaid SIM you can book packages, but not on the Tourist SIM:

Package Data Validity Price
Daily Easy Pack 166.25 MB 24 hours Nu. 19
Daily Lite Pack 256.50 MB 24 hours Nu. 29
Weekly Student Pack 332.50 MB 7 days Nu. 39
Weekly Lite Pack 422.75 MB 7 days Nu. 49
Weekly Medium Pack 855 MB 7 days Nu. 99
Monthly Student Pack 1.72 GB 30 days Nu. 199
Monthly Lite Pack 2.84 GB 30 days Nu. 299
Monthly Medium Pack 5.23 GB 30 days Nu. 499
Monthly Heavy Pack 7.7 GB 30 days Nu. 699

Users can subscribe to these plans through eLoad or B-Wallet.  Any prepaid recharge with the amount stated above will automatically subscribe to these plans.

Users can check the package by dialing *170#. The statement will show the main account balance, data package in MB and the free SMS count.

Minimum main account balance should not be less than Nu. 15 to be able to use data from these packages.When data and SMS quota from the plan is exhausted, data and SMS charges will be deducted from the main account at the existing pay-per-use rate.

Satellite phones Edit

Bhutan Telecom provides satellite phones using the Thuria system, which allows direct dialling from anywhere in the country, even on a trek. Some tour operators have these phones or they can rent them, though the charges are much higher than for normal calls.

More info Edit

TashiCell Edit

TashiCell

TashiCell by Tashi InfoComm Ltd. is the only privately owned alternative. It launched in 2008 and has a market share of 30%. It has a lower coverage than B-Mobile on 2G and 3G, but they've added many new site recently. 2G is on 900 MHz, 3G on 850 MHz.

4G/LTE has been launched in 2016 on 700 MHz (band 28) which is still not so common. It's available in Thimphu, Paro and Phuntsholing and Wangdue & Punakha dzongkhag. 2G/3G/4G coverage list and map.

Availability Edit

SIM cards can be purchased in their Consumer Care Centers (list) open 9am to 4:30pm in winter and 5:30pm in summer. Their prepaid tariff is called TalkMore. SIM cards are sold at Nu. 200 with the same credit preloaded. Validity is 3 months. Existing customers who wants to upgrade to 4G/LTE using the same number can swap their SIM for free.

To top-up use vouchers or electronic top up called E-top-up. By voucher type *777*<14-digit code>#. Using E-top-up you can add any amount Nu. 10 to 5000 giving 15-120 days of validity and getting 5% bonus. Check balance by typing *770#.

Default data rate Edit

Pay-per-use data rates on TashCell differ from the time of the day:

  • 7am to 12midnight: Nu. 0.0006 per KB (= 0.6 Nu. per MB)
  • 12midnight to 7am: Nu. 0.0002 per KB (= 0.2 Nu. per MB)

Featured data packages Edit

These data bundles are offered on 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE:

Period Data Price Activation Overuse
1 day 50 MB Nu. 20 *766*1*1# Nu 0.5/MB
7 days 170 MB Nu. 50 *766*1*2# Nu 0.5/MB
30 days 400 MB Nu. 100 *766*1*3# Nu 0.4/MB
1.5 GB Nu. 300 *766*1*4# Nu 0.3/MB
7.77 GB Nu. 777 *766*1*5# Nu 0.2/MB
3.5 GB Nu. 500 *766*1*6# Nu 0.3/MB
15 GB Nu. 1299 *766*1*7# NU 0.2/MB

For subscription dial *766*1#. All packages auto-renew. To unsubscribe, type *766*2#. To renew ahead of time, first unsubcribe and subscribe anew. To check data volume, type *766*4#.

More info Edit

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