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Basics Edit

There are so far only two network operators in the Philippines:

  • Smart (by PLDT, includes Smart, Sun Cellular and Talk'n Text)
  • Globe (includes Tattoo, Touch Mobile/TM, ABS-CBN mobile and Cherry Prepaid)

Globe had been slowly gaining on the market leader Smart since 2012 when Globe had only a 32% market share. However, over the past years it closed the gap. Globe finished 2016 with 66.6 million subscribers compared with Smart’s 62.1 million, giving Globe a 52% market share and Smart 48%. This is remarkable as Smart holds 290 MHz bandwidth and employs 12,000 BTS while Globe only 210 MHz and 7000 BTS in 2017.

Frequencies Edit

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.

In 2017 the search for a third and possibly fourth operator is under way. The new entrant to be selected needs to invest PHP 30 billion (US$ 596 million) in the first two years to deploy a network, and would need to build at least 2,000 to 3,000 base transceiver stations (BTS) nationwide to break the duopoly of Smart and Globe.

Registration Edit

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 (or passport) 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.  

Reloading Edit

When searching for bigger reloads to your SIM, it's fairly difficult in some areas to find a shop that can offer that. Therefore you might want to use Lazada as at the point of writing, this was the only site found where you can reload your SIM without additional cost (and actually save 5% on your load value) via credit card.

Smart Communications Edit

Smart-0

new logo

Smart Communications by PLDT Inc, 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).

Availability Edit

Smart

old logo

Their usual prepaid SIM card is available practically at every street corner where you see their sign. Start-up price is around 40 Pesos with 300 MB and another 700 MB when you top-up at least P 30 within 3 days of activation. All new SIM cards include 4G/LTE now.

Reloads Edit

Recharges (loads) are available all over the Philippines 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 e-load) into the subscriber's account. Minimum top-up value is P 15 plus a minimal fee of P 1-3 for the merchant.

Following Globe in 2018 Smart has announced that all prepaid loads will have a validity period of one year from now on. To check your balance text '?1515' to 214, enter 214# or *121#.

Data feature packages Edit

Default rate for data usage is P 5 per 15 minutes. These data packs called BigBytes and GigaSurf in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE sold in these sizes:

Package Data Price Period Activation
BigBytes 5 15 MB P 5 1 day BIG5
BigBytes 10 40 MB P 10 1 day BIG10
BigBytes 15 40 MB P 15 2 days BIG15
BigBytes 30 100 MB P 30 1 day BIG30
GigaSurf 50 1 GB P 50 3 days GIGA50
GigaSurf 99 1.5 GB P 99 7 days GIGA99
GigaSurf 299 2 GB P 299 30 days GIGA299
GigaSurf 499 3.5 GB P 499 30 days GIGA499
GigaSurf 799 4.5 GB P 799 30 days GIGA799

To activate, text keyword to 9999 (e.g. BIG30 then send it to 9999). Data usage beyond these packages is charged by the default data rate. As a bonus GigaSurf packages contain up to 1.1 GB free FOX, YouTube, Games, iflix, and Spinnr allowances.

Surf Max and Surf Max Plus data packages Edit

Information page here: https://smart.com.ph/bro/data-promos/

Surf Max packages (for prepaid) have a daily data cap of 800 MB, once this is exceeded, the "...connection quality may vary until 12 midnight". 4G and LTE are enabled by default.

  • SurfMax (Plus) 50: 1 day, P 50 - activation: SurfMaxPLUS50
  • SurfMax 85: 2 days, P85
  • SurfMax 200: 5 days, P200
  • SurfMax 250: 7 days, P250
  • SurfMax 500: 15 days, P500
  • SurfMax 995: 30 days, P995 - activation: SURFMAX995

To activate dial *121# and in the following menu choose SurfMax Plus or text code 999. You can buy the same package again ahead of time.

Surf Max Plus packages give unlimited daily access of social networking (Facebook, FB messenger, WhatsApp, Viber and Instagram), while "Open Access" data have an overall limit instead of a daily 800MB cap.

  • SurfMax Plus 100: 2 days, 1.5GB (promotion 3GB until May 1 2018. Keyword SMPLUS100
  • SurfMax Plus 350: 7 days, 5GB, SMPLUS350
  • SurfMax Plus 600: 15 days, 8GB, SMPLUS600
  • SurfMax Plus 995: 30 days, 10GB, SMPLUS995

Data Card Edit

The Smart Data Card comes with 2 GB data to any site + 1 GB iflix for P 100 valid for 7 days. It's available for Smart Prepaid nationwide in SM Malls, Robinson’s Malls, 7-Eleven and Ministop.

SMART PREPAID Roaming service Edit

To activate SMS roaming:  Text ROAM ON and send to 333 

To activate Voice roaming:  Text ROAM ON <country name> and send to 333

Remember to activate pre-paid roaming before leaving the Philippines. Remember to deactivate upon arrival in the Philippines to restore voice calls.

How to Text Edit

To send an SMS while roaming, use the international number format: + (Country Code)(Mobile Code)(Party's Number) and press send on your GSM mobile phone.

How to Call Edit

Calling a local landline: Dial 0 + Area Code + Tel. No. + Send

Calling a local mobile phone: Dial 0 + Mobile Access Code + Tel. No. + Send

Calling the Phils: Landline: Dial +63 + Area Code + Tel. No. + Send

Calling to Mobile Phone: SMART - Dial +63 + 918 + 7-digit Mobile No. + Send

Others - Dial +63 + Mobile Access Code + 7-digit Mobile No. + Send

Calling another country: Dial plus sign (+) + Country Code + Area Code + Tel. No. + Send

Voicemail Retrieval: Dial +639189000100 + send

Emergency Numbers of foreign operator: Dial 112 + Send

How to Reload Edit

Using Smart Money Edit

1. Go to your Smart Menu and select Smart Buddy. 2. Click on "RELOAD" 3. If you're reloading for the first time, BANK CODE. Enter MONEY, then press OK. 4. When prompted for ID, enter 1 then press OK (Click on MONEY and move on to the next step.) 5. Select a preset amount, then press OK. 6. Select MY BUDDY then press OK. 7. Key in your W-PIN, then press OK. 8. You will receive a test message confirming the amount successfully transferred.

NOTE: You will be charged P20.00 per airtime reload via Smart Money. Subscriber must maintain a minimum of Php20.00 balance.

Through text Edit

1. Lightly scratch off the protective ink on your Call and Text Card* to reveal the 14-digit PIN. 2. Type in "RELOAD <14 digit PIN>" and send to 1510. 3. You will receive a text message confirming that the reload attempt is successful.

Through Call and Text cards via the Internet Edit

In case you run out of Call and Text cards while roaming, you can always buy them on-line with your credit card. Just log-on to Smart Pinoy online reload partners on the Internet and follow the simple step-by-step instructions for online purchase.

  • PGC
  • CTI
  • Oks Pinoy
  • Ventaja

How to check your balance Edit

Type in ?1515 and send to 214 You will receive a text message stating your latest available balance.

How to get more info Edit

Send your text messages to *888 or call Customer Service Hotline 888-1111 using a landline phone.

Important Information about SMART PREPAID Roaming Service Edit

  1. When your SMART PREPAID Roaming service is activated you will: be able to send and receive text messages in over 100 countries in the world, anytime for only P20 per send, enjoy zero-charging for receiving text messages while roaming and disallow all outgoing and incoming calls (even while you're in the Philippines).
  2. To deactivate the roaming feature upon your return, simply key in "ROAM OFF" and send to 333. De-activation will take effect after around one (1) hour.
  3. For FREE Balance Inquiry & CTC loading, dial *133# (service not available on Sauditel and Zain networks in Saudi Arabia and the exclusion list may change without prior notice).
  4. For a lower effective roaming SMS rate at P2/text, subscribe to TxTipid.

Tourist SIM cards Edit

For tourists they give out a special free Tourist SIM at all international airports of the country. The same bonuses are included and same packages can be added. You only skip the start-up price.

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
  • To enjoy seamless roaming service, please maintain a minimum load of P100 while abroad.
  • Alternatively download their "My Smart" app
  • 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 TelecomEdit

Globe

Globe Telecom 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).

Availability Edit

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 free to a new one, depending on the branch's availability.

Prepaid SIM cards come with a free initial 70 MB data volume allocation valid for 1 week and initial activity period is 2 months. Once expired you have 45 days to recharge the SIM before it will expire for good.

You may adjust your APN configuration manually, if data doesn't work.

Reloads Edit

Reloads are available in every outlet of Globe all over the country from P 10. Most retailers sell it at an extra charge of P 1-3 because they use the share-a-load feature which is charged that amount. There are also reload vouchers available in malls in denominations of 100, 300 and 500 Peso.

To check balance text "BAL" to 222 or enter *143#.

Globe Telecom has announced in summer 2018 that it has fully complied with a Memorandum Circular extending the validity of all prepaid load to one year. Effective 5 July, all Globe prepaid load, including those with denominations below PHP 300, will carry a 1-year expiration period. Back in January, Globe and other carriers started implementing the 1-year expiration period for prepaid load worth PHP 300 and above.

Data feature packagesEdit

Data outside of packs is P5 per 15 minutes. All packages are on 4G/LTE too where available. Their packages are called GoSURF:

Price Time Data Bonus Activation
P 15 2 days 40 MB GoSURF15
P 50 3 days 1 GB 300 MB for app GoSURF50
P 299 30 days 1.5 GB 1 GB for app GoSURF299
P 599 30 days 4 GB 1 GB for app GoSURF599
P 999 30 days 8 GB 1 GB for app GoSURF999

All GoSurf packs come with bonus allowances and unlimited domestic SMS. To activate pack, text code to 8888- One app can be selected for bonus out of Snapchat, Instagram, Viber, Facebook, Spotify, YouTube or Twitter. To register your favourite app dial *143#.

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 P5 for a 15 mins or P2 per MB. To know your default rate dial *143#.

Tourist SIM Edit

In 2016 Globe started a partnership with the National Tourism Promotion Board. To support the 'Visit the Philippines Again' campaign, it gives out the Globe Traveler SIM for free. It's available 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 main incoming flights of Philippine Airlines for free as a promotion. You can add the same data packages as on the regular SIM, only skip the start-up price.

Prepaid Roaming Edit

Globe Prepaid Roaming is now automatic! Get connected to a partner network simply by turning on your mobile phone upon arriving abroad. Activation before departure and deactivation upon return to the Philippines are no longer required.

Upon return to the Philippines, your roaming will be disabled. All local promos and services (such as RBT and DUO) that are still within validity will instantly resume.

To make calls:

  • For countries with direct dial service: 
    Dial country code + area/operator code + landline/mobile number. 
    Example: +639171234567
  • For countries without direct dial service: 

Dial *131* + country code + area/operator code + landline/mobile number + #.  Example (Landline): *131*6321234567#  Example (Mobile): *131*639171234567#

  • After your initial call is dropped, wait for the callback from the person you're trying to reach. Your call will be charged only upon successful connection.

To send an SMS

Text your message to "+" + country code + area code + mobile number Example: +639171234567

To check your load balance

  • Dial *143#, choose MyAccount, and Balance Inquiry.

To reload

  • Buy a Globe call card before flying abroad.
    1. Dial *143# for free and select MyAccount.
    2. Select Load Call Card.
    3. Enter the 10-digit call card number followed by the 6-digit PIN.
    4. A notification will be sent via text to confirm that the reload attempt is successful.
  • Via Share-a-Load: Ask your loved ones back in the Philippines to text to "2" + your mobile number.
    Example: 100 to 29171234567

To surf abroad:

Connect with a Prepaid Roam Surf Promo, enjoy unlimited mobile surfing in over 83 countries abroad. Here's how:

  1. Check if the Prepaid Roam Surf offer is available in the country you're visiting.
  2. To register, dial *143#, select Roaming & Int'l > Roaming > Data Roaming Promos.Choose from the available offers. It is recommended that you are already abroad before you register to a promo.
  3. Wait for the confirmation message notifying you that your registration is successful. Make sure that you have enough load to avail of Prepaid Roam Surf.
  4. Activate Prepaid Roam Surf by turning on Mobile Data and Data Roaming in your mobile phone's settings.
  5. Make sure you are connected to the designated roaming partner to enjoy using data roaming!

The Roaming service in the following countries is temporarily deactivated: Benin, Burundi, Egypt, Gambia, Mongolia, Mozambique, Pakistan, and Swaziland. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.

Important Information about Prepaid Roaming (Update 2018, Source: http://www.globe.com.ph/help/roaming/groam) Edit

  • TM customers can also use roaming services.
  • To find out if the service is active in your country destination, text GLIST and send it to 2884. You will be charged P 2.50 for this text message.
  • Effective June 4, 2018 for Prepaid and June 26, 2018 for TM, you don't need to request for manual roaming activation. Upon arrival, you just need to turn on your phone to receive a roaming signal and instantly connect to our partner network.
  • There's no maintaining balance requirement starting November 23, 2015.
  • You will still have roaming signal regardless if you have load or not. However, you will not be able to make any outgoing call and outgoing text or receive incoming calls if you have insufficient load balance. You will still receive incoming texts even without any load.
  • There's no expiration for your roaming signal. As long as you're in a country with a Globe partner network, you will still have roaming signal.
  • You will not be charged for any unanswered incoming and outgoing calls unless you will leave a voice mailbox message. However, there are some international network provider partners that impose interconnection charges for unanswered calls. A fraction of a minute is rounded up, hence, will be counted as one whole minute.
  • While roaming, you are only allowed to subscribe to roaming promos such as Roam Surf (data roaming) and Roam Super Saver (for calls and texts). All local promos such as RBT, DUO, GoSurf, GoSakto, unlimited calls and texts are blocked when you're on roaming.
  • Effective June 4, 2018 for Prepaid and June 26, 2018 for TM, you don't need to request for manual roaming deactivation. Your roaming will automatically be deactivated once you're back in the Philippines. Your local promos and services which are within validity will instantly resume.

More info Edit

  • 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)
  • APN: lte.globe.com.ph, internet.globe.com.ph /or simply/ INTERNET /or/ LTE
  • Website: http://www.globe.com.ph