Comparing Lao mobile ISPs Beeline, Unitel, Planet

Sunday morning in Vientiane seemed like a reasonably low global traffic time to test download speeds from the better 3G and 4G mobile internet providers in Laos. Currently, these are Beeline (Tigo) and Unitel for 3G HSDPA and Planet Online for 4G WiMax. As the other two ISPs, Lao Telecom and ETL were only giving 1 or 2 Mbps at my location, I stopped subscribing a while back when faster connections became available for the same price.

While higher speeds and lower ping times will be achieved from relatively nearby Vientiane, Bangkok or Hanoi servers, what happens in the real world upstream (between Vientiane and servers in say London or New York) is another story and of course download speeds will be affected by many different factors.

Using the well-known SpeedTest.net, I was quite surprised with some of the results. I used the 21 Mbps USB modem from Beeline, a 7.2 Mbps dongle from Unitel and Planet’s 4G WiMax Indoor CPE modem. While having seen increased speeds from local servers, I certainly wasn’t expecting to see over 5 Mbps download speeds and very low latency from many thousands of miles or kilometers away from Southeast Asia. Here are the results:

Unitel Lao (Star Telecom) HSPA – London, UK server

Lao 3G Unitel download (London, UK)
Unitel Lao HSPA – New York City, USA server

Lao Unitel 3G (NYC)

Planet Online Laos WiMax – London, UK server

Laos Planet Online 4G (London, UK)

Planet Online Laos WiMax – New York City, USA server

Planet Online Laos 4G New York

Beeline Lao HSPA+ (ex Tigo Millicom) – London, UK server

Beeline Laos 3G (London, UK)

Beeline Lao HSPA+ (ex Tigo Millicom) – New York City, USA server

Beeline 3G Laos (New York, USA)

This was by no means a definitive test which, in fairness, ought to be made at different times of the day, night and week, using different local and overseas locations and servers.

Currently, Beeline’s new HSPA+ service using a high speed USB modem such as the ZTE MF 668A wins hands down. Both the ping times and download speeds were impressive and unexpected. Let’s hope as the subscriber base expands that performance doesn’t deteriorate too rapidly as it has with Unitel.

Here’s a more recent Beeline test using a Los Angeles, CA (US West Coast) server, done at 6.30 pm Wednesday 18th.

Beeline Laos speed test US West Coast server

Beeline is part of VimpelCom, a huge Russian-owned mobile provider. I found even less latency to Moscow – 48ms.

Strangely, I have since received much higher ping rates using Pingtest.net from these and other locations. I am looking further into why there should be such discrepancy.

See the Lao Communications page on our website for details of phone and internet services in the Lao PDR.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. I suppose its not too surprising that things have slowed down with more users coming on the service. Laos seems to be advancing quite fast now so my hope is it won’t take *too* long for things to improve. In the mean time I need to work out which service will be best suited for me to use remote terminal access to the UK on!

  2. Tolerance is highly valued in Buddhist SE Asia. You’ll need lots. Cost of a tolerable internet service won’t be your problem as much as actually finding one where you are located. Central Vientiane is where most users are; you can actually get better results in the suburbs, but it’s trial and error. 3G SIMs are cheap and you only need one unlocked USB air card. By the way, those low Beeline ping times from 2012 are not around today.

  3. Yeah I suspect that no matter how good I a service I get it won’t actually be that fast or responsive compared to what I’m used to. I basically need something tolerable! The “ping” for Planet seems a bit high, where the ping for Beeline seems really impressive – its almost the same as my connection from home in the UK! I’m sure time of day and number of users will have an impact on it though. I’ll be located in central Vientiane so I hope that will help. I’m a little surprised they haven’t just rolled out fibre lines in Vientiane given the comparatively small area to cover.

    I imagine I may just have to try various different services on monthly cost and see which one works, the downside being that I really need to have access from day one. Maybe I’ll just have to sign up to more than one at a time! Thanks for all the info though, its really useful to see.

  4. Sadly, a lot has changed in the past 18 months since those tests. Internet provider performance is hit-and-miss in Vientiane primarily due to congestion, so where you are located at a particular time will affect your access. If you can be in range of Planet Online’s 4G WiMax Mobile service, I’d recommend that. For phone operator 3G, Beeline has the highest capability with up to 21 Mbps modem, followed by Unitel, then LaoTel/ETL but you will need to try for yourself. Bring an unlocked (up to) 21 Mbps USB modem with you. See my Lao Internet Plans page for more, including costs. Good luck, but you are likely to be frustrated!

  5. Wow those are some impressive speeds from Beeline. I will be moving to Vientiane in a few months, and as I will be working on UK servers for my current work I will need fast response times. Can you tell me which service you were using and how much it cost? I’m finding their website almost impossible to use.

  6. Unfortunately, customer satisfaction is not a priority for Lao providers.

  7. Unitel Subscriber

    Over the past several years there has been increase in server providers here in VTE, & all offering services with a variety of confusing options & prices, however we never seem to get the service quite what we thought we were paying for according to the package we purchased. This “Comparing Lao Mobile ISPs” service will certainly get the attention of the server providers and perhaps encourage them provide a reasonable and quality service to it’s customers. I will be monitoring this sight frequently and switching servers accordingly. “Customer satisfaction” is what stimulates successful business.

  8. I really intend to take note of this post, “Comparing Lao
    mobile ISPs Beeline, Unitel, Planet

  9. This may not be the most current place to comment, but I got Beeline unlimited internet SIM for 130k/month. Initially I used an old 3.6Mbps DTAC aircard and everything was great. After a few days, I was down to 256kbps max. Went and got the Beeline 21Mbps as my neighbor was experiencing a similar drop off. It worked ok for a couple hours (upwards of 512kbps). Trust me, I know that is pathetically slow. Went back to Beeline and I was informed that there is a 10GB limit on the monthly “unlimited” plan for 130k after which the speed is throttled down to 256kbps because of users like me that download too much. I can confirm that something like this has in fact happened. Anyone else experience this?

  10. Yes. For 3G, only Unitel offers a low-speed unlimited daily option. Note that was a one-off test. I didn’t bother with ETL or LaoTel as I found they limited speed to about 2 Mbps. I checked ETL again yesterday and today, and it’s the same as before. I haven’t used LaoTel recently.

    Beeline 3G/3.75G download speeds are affected by hardware spec. I get much better results with the (up to) 21 Mbps USB modem than with my LG P-350 mobile – around 2.5 Mbps; however, another user was getting 4.5 Mbps YouTube downloads a few days ago, but didn’t say what phone or tablet he was using.

    Since the comparison above, I have had similar results from further random tests. Beeline speeds may decrease as the user base grows; time will tell. 6-7 Mbps speed tests are typical from Vientiane, Bangkok and Hanoi servers, although this is of little relevance for downloads from international servers and websites.

  11. Are you using the highest speed plan from each provider to compare/test?

  12. The speed is indeed very high and the latency is impressive as well!
    Here is a site with more Lao ISP info and price comparison table: http://internet-in-laos.blogspot.com/