There are two network operators in the Philippines:
- Globe (includes Tattoo (Globe's flagship Mobile Broadband/Hotspot SIM card), Touch Mobile also known as TM, ABS-CBN mobile, Cherry Prepaid)
- Smart (includes Smart Bro (Smart's flagship mobile hotspot/broadband SIM card) Sun Cellular and Talk 'n Text)
2G-GSM/EDGE is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G UMTS up to HSPA+ on 850 MHz on Smart and 900 MHz on Globe and mainly on 2100 MHz on both networks. 4G/LTE started in the Metro Manila and has been extened to other cities so far. For 4G/LTE Smart uses 700 MHz (28), 850 MHz (5), 1800 MHz (3) and 2100 MHz (1), Globe uses 700 MHz (28), 1800 MHz (3), 2300 MHz (40 in TDD-LTE) and 2600 MHz (7).
Coverage and speed Edit
2G covers all inhabited islands but is practically useless for data transmission (even for WhatsApp) because of congestion. On 3G you only get data speeds comparably to other southeast Asian countries in Manila and a few provincial capitals. Generally the 3G coverage is somewhat patchy and speeds are often quite low. 4G/LTE coverage isn't nationwide and mostly exists in greater urban areas so far. Both Globe and Smart have pledged to cover 95% of population with 4G/LTE by the end of 2018.
In the Philippines, there is a constant dispute, which network is better: Globe or Smart? By international or regional standards, both of them remain pretty bad. The problem is: you never can tell. On most places (outside of Metro Manila) only one network is useable for data and this changes regionally. For instance, on Boracay, Philippines' premier summer vacation spot, it's Smart. While on Baguio City, the country's summer capital, it's mostly dominated by Globe and Smart's signal is weaker.
If you need data at one particular spot, ask locally which one to choose. But don't ask anyone attached to a provider in a phone shop, they just want to sell their own product. It's better to count the numerous sales outlets instead: the provider with more outlets is likely the better at this location.
In 2016 the Philippines House of Representatives has requested Smart and Globe to explain, why the Filipino people 'are not receiving the quality of service that they deserve'. Smart and Globe will also have to 'show why they should have the privilege to keep their franchises despite the same'. The new controversial president Duterte has now threatened to break up the duopoly in the wake of persistent criticism of the Philippines’ slow and expensive internet services: 'If you do not do it right, you wait, I’m going to China. I’ll open up everything for competition. I’ll just open up everything,' the president warned. So we might soon see Chinese companies competing on the Philippino market.
In the meantime travelling through the Philippines you may think of getting two SIM cards like locals do. The start-up price is minimal and you can always try which operator works (better) at your place. This leaves you with the problem which SIM card to load up for data.
As it stands, there are still no formal requirements for anyone to provide confirmation of their identity when buying a prepaid SIM card, but be prepared that you will need to show a form of ID and fill out some papers at the point of purchase soon.
In 2015 the House of Representatives approved a bill which calls for the systematic registration of all prepaid SIM cards in the country. The new rules require that anyone purchasing a SIM card fill in documentation and provide photographic proof of identity at the time of purchase. In 2016 the legislature has filed a bill in a bid to implement a mandatory SIM card registration scheme in the country so that anyone buying a SIM will be required to sign a control-numbered registration form used by the respective public telecommunications entity (PTE) of the card being purchased. The PTEs then have to collect registration forms from direct sellers and submit a copy to the National Telecommunications Commission.
Smart is one of the two leading providers in the Philippines with more than 70 million customers on its three brands Smart, Sun Cellular and Talk 'n Text. It was the first to start 4G/LTE in 2012 in Manila and expanded it now to some other cities. For 4G/LTE Smart uses 700 MHz (28), 850 MHz (5), 1800 MHz (3) and 2100 MHz (1).
Their prepaid SIM card is available practically at every street corner where you see their sign. Start-up price is around 40 Pesos without credit but some bonuses like 30 MB valid for 7 days and 35 domestic SMS. They are triple cut for all three sizes and on 4G/LTE. Some older cards may be still around on 3G only, so watch out.
Recharges are available all over the Philippines again on every street corner. They use an electronic reloading system in which the merchant uses a special SIM card (retailer's SIM card) to transfer/recharge credits (also known as eload) into the subscriber's account. Minimum top-up value is PhP15.
Data feature packages Edit
Smart has a huge array of different types of data packages. Default rate for data usage is P 5 per 15 minutes. But subscriber has the option to hold the default P 5/quarter hour charging by texting PROTECT<space>ON and send it to 9999 (for SMART Prepaid SIM) or 2200 (for SMART Bro SIM cards)
SurfMax (Plus) data packages Edit
These packages have a data cap of 800 MB per day and come in these sizes on 2G and 3G only and as SurfMax Plus for the same rate on 4G/LTE too:
- SurfMax 50: 1 day, P 59
- SurfMax 299: 7 days, P 299
- SurfMax 995: 30 days, P 999
To be able to access 4G/LTE network, subscriber must be subscribed to SURFMAX PLUS instead of SURFMAX (in which 4G LTE is automatically activated for SMART Bro Prepaid regardless of the keyword). To activate dial *121# and in the following menu choose SurfMax Plus. You can buy the same package again ahead of time.
BigByte data packages Edit
These data packs called "BigBytes" on 2G, 3G and 4G sold in different sizes:
|BigBytes 5||5 MB||P 5||1 day||BIG5|
|BigBytes 10||40 MB||P 10||1 day||BIG10|
|BigBytes 15||40 MB||P 15||2 days||BYTES15|
|Big Bytes 30||100 MB||P 30||1 day||BIG30|
|BigBytes 50||700 MB||P 50||3 days||BIG50|
|BigBytes 99||200 MB||P 99||30 days||BIG99|
|BigBytes 299||1.7 GB||P 299||30 days||BIG299|
|BigBytes 799||4.5 GB||P 799||30 days||BIG799|
To activate, text keyword to 9999 (e.g. BIG50 then send it to 9999). Data usage beyond these packages is charged by the default data rate. As a bonus larger packages contain up to 1.1 GB free FOX, YouTube, Games, iflix, and Spinnr allowances.
Opera Data Packages Edit
These packages are only valid for unlimited surfing on 2G and 3G (streaming video and downloading files in excess of 15 MB are charged by the default data rate) using the Opera Mini browser.
|Opera UnliSurf 15||P 15||OPERA 15||1 day|
|Opera UnliSurf 60||P 60||OPERA 60||5 days|
|Opera UnliSurf 80||P 80||OPERA 80||7 days|
|Opera UnliSurf 160||P 160||OPERA 160||15 days|
|Opera UnliSurf 299||P 299||OPERA 299||30 days|
To activate, text the code to 211.
Social Messenger Packs Edit
- unlimited Facebook for 1 day: P 2, activation. text 'FB2' to 9999.
- unlimited UnliChat (FB Messenger, Whatsapp, Viber, WeChat, Line) for 1 day: P 10, activation: text 'SUPER10' to 9999.
Cebu Pacific promotion Edit
Smart has partnered with Cebu Pacific Air to launch a free SIM card for tourists. Foreign tourists flying to the Philippines via Cebu Pacific from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan receive a complimentary Cebu Pacific-Smart LTE Tourist SIM, which they can activate upon arrival in the country.
More info Edit
- To check balance text "?1515" to 214 or you may also dial *214# and wait for the text message or go to your Smart Menu and choose Balance Inquiry
- Tethering is allowed
- VoIP is allowed, but sometimes impossible because of slow data rate and excessive buffering.
- Unlike Globe, they don't mangle your traffic, i.e. use no transparent proxies (report, which also shows excessive buffering).
- APN: LTE /or/ internet
- Website: http://smart.com.ph
Globe is the only rival of Smart in the Philippines. It is 1/2 owned by SingTel from Singapore and has more than 40 million customers. But most Filipinos hold SIM cards of both operators. Globe sometimes has better data rates, because its cells are less congested. 4G/LTE is available mostly in city areas so far: 4G/LTE coverage list on 700 MHz (28), 1800 MHz (3), 2500 MHz (41/TDD-LTE) and 2600 MHz (7).
Their prepaid SIM card is available practically at every street corner. It's sold for 40 Pesos. Now most SIM cards are 4G-enabled, but there might be some old ones still around without 4G. Check before buying. You can swap an old 3G SIM in a Globe store for 40 P to a new one.
Prepaid SIM cards come with a free initial 70 MB data volume allocation valid for 1 week.
You may adjust your APN configuration manually, if data doesn't work. Reloads are available in every outlet of Globe all over the country from P 10 (however most retailers sell it at an extra charge of P 1-3 as they claimed that they have minimal profit.)
Data feature packagesEdit
Data outside of packs is P5 per 15 minutes. All packages are on 4G/LTE too where available. Their internet packages are called GoSURF or SuperSURF.
|P 10||1 day||40 MB||unlimited dom. SMS||GOSURF 10|
|P 15||2 days||40 MB||30 MB Snapchat||GOSURF 15|
|P 30||1 day||100 MB||50 MB VB, FB, SC||GOSURF 30|
|P 50||3 days||1 GB||300 MB VB, FB, SC||GS 50|
|P 50||5 days||350 MB||300 MB, VB, FB, SC||GOSURF 50 7D|
|P 99||30 days||200 MB||1 GB var. apps||GOSURF 99|
|P 199||30 days||500 MB||1 GB Spotify||GOSURF 199|
|P 299||30 days||1.5 GB||1 GB Spotify||GOSURF 299|
|P 499||30 days||3 GB||1 GB Spotify||GOSURF 499|
|P 999||30 days||8 GB||1 GB Spotify||GOSURF 999|
|P 1799||30 days||10 GB||1 GB Spotify||GOSURF 1799|
|P 2499||30 days||15 GB||1 GB Spotify||GOSURF 2499|
All GoSurf packs come with bonus allowances and unlimited domestic SMS. To activate pack, text code to 8888 (You may also use the alias GS(amount) to subscribe (e.g. GS50 or GS507D then send to 8888. Check your remaining data balance by texting "GOSURF STATUS" to 8888.To unsubscribe text "GoSURF STOP" to 8888. All data beyond packages will be charged by the default rate of either P 2.00 per Mb or P 5.00 for a 15 minutes block charging. To know your default rate dial *143# and choose Surfing from the following options.
Social media packages Edit
For site specific mobile messaging supports the following sites: GMessage, Viber, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, KakaoTalk, WhatsApp, Line.
- unlimited for 1 day, P 25, text UNLICHAT 25 to 8888
- unlimited for 30 days, P 299, text UNLICHAT 299 to 8888
To stop text UNLICHAT STOP to 8888.
For specific messengers, they have the following packages:
- Viber, unlimited for 1 day, P 20, text VIBER20 to 8888
- KakaoTalk, unlimited for 1 day, P 20, text KAKAOTALK20 to 8888
- Facebook Messenger, unlimited for 1 day, P 20, text FBMESSENGER20 to 8888
- Whatsapp, unlimited for 1 day, P 20, text WHATSAPP20 to 8888
To stop text <activation code> STOP to 8888.
Tourist SIM Edit
In 2016 Globe started a partnership with the National Tourism Promotion Board. To support the 'Visit the Phillippines Again' campaign, it gives out the Globe Traveler SIM, a local prepaid SIM that offers discounted rates for mobile data, calls, and SMS. It's available for free at the Globe booths at NAIA in Manila, Cebu, Davao, Kalibo, Iloilo and Clark International Airports can also be reserved via the Globe website. It's also given out on maincoming flights for free as a promotion.
For the Traveler SIM, three different exclusive 'Travelsurf' packages are offered:
- 300 MB for 3 days: P 150 - activation: text 'TRAVEL3' to 8888
- 1 GB + P 200 credit for 7 days: P 500 - activation: text 'TRAVEL7' to 8888
- 5 GB for 30 days: P 1000 - activation: text 'TRAVEL30' to 8888
While these bundles only work on the Traveler SIM, you can add any regular package to it by *143#.
More info Edit
- To check balance text "BAL" to 222
- Tethering is allowed
- They use transparent proxies to "optimize" HTTP and other kinds of traffic, e.g. recompress images, scan exe files for viruses, see what you have downloaded over BitTorrent.
- Some kinds of VoIP are allowed (Skype works, SIP is blocked). Sometimes VoIP is impossible because of slow data
- APN: lte.globe.com.ph, internet.globe.com.ph or simply INTERNET or LTE (in the APN box)
- Website: http://www.globe.com.ph