Laos telecoms: 4G LTE internet in 2014? Maybe.

Update December 2013 – There was no 4G LTE internet in Laos for most of 2013. Both Lao Telecom and Beeline promised this for over two years! No confirmation (in English anyway) on their websites. The Lao Telecom website is impossible to navigate or get clear information about their internet plans – either in English or Lao language! If anyone has a source, please post a comment. Thank you!

Previous update November 2012
A 4G LTE internet service for Laos apparently appeared  briefly in the capital Vientiane in November when Lao Telecom (LTC) opened its new high-speed service exclusively for delegates attending the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting Summit (ASEM) held on November 5th and 6th. The nearest one of the planned 20 base stations to the convention centre was powered up for this purpose. No feedback has been published.

The remaining 19 stations (a list of locations is available in Lao only) are expected to give 4G coverage to the rest of the city and suburbs within perhaps a 5km radius, but service will not be available to the public before January 2013 at the earliest, according to head office personnel. The network infrastructure is from Huawei (China). Costs to the user of the proposed 4G/LTE service (initially data-only, with voice/video call and other features to follow) have been released and are available on request at LTC’s Saylom HQ.

LTC Lao Telecom M Broadband logoA Huawei E392 4G USB modem (badged M Broadband) will sell together with 4G SIM for 1 million kips ($125). ‘Unlimited’ data cost is 300,000 kips ($37.50) for 10-days or monthly for 700,000 kips ($87.50). The plans have been included on our Lao Internet Data Plans page, although the launch date for any Lao LTE service to the public is still unknown.

Beeline Lao (VimpelCom) town office staff also cannot provide an opening date for their 4G LTE network, but it too is not expected before 2013. No details are available regarding hardware or data options, although it’s believed that monthly data transfer cost will (have to) be comparable with LaoTel’s future offering.

Both Lao 4G LTE FDD/TDD networks operate on the 2,600MHz frequency band (compatible with European and some Asian systems rather than American which mostly use 700MHz).

huawei-e392-4g-3g-air-cardAlthough the Huawei E392 air card (retail price around $250/£160) was apparently the first multi-mode USB modem incorporating 4G LTE FDD technology as well as compatible (automatic switching) with 2G/3G UMTS, GSM and CDMA mobile networks, the slightly cheaper ZTE MF820 has similar specs. LTC will supply its Huawei E392 for about half its current retail price and it may be unlockable through DC-Unlocker or other service.

Apart from heavy discounting on the hardware, the data cost of Lao 4G/LTE services will be much higher than for 3G HSPA/HSPA+. As yet there is no way for users to  evaluate or compare performance between the two.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. The codes and prices for Lao telecom are not up to date. I had to use *118*1# for 1 day with 100MB at 5000 kips or *181*2# for 30 days 200MB at 10000 kips. This is end of February 2013. I do not know what the other packages are. Without a package, it is 300 kips per MB.
    Cheers

  2. Thanks Michel, I cannot find a web page with any reference to Lao Telecom’s current phone plans, but have added the ones you gave me to the Lao Data Plans page.

  3. By the way, it’s mid May already and there is still no 4G LTE in Vientiane or Laos.

  4. Thanks again, Michel. It’s now near the end of December, I am not in Laos at the moment and I cannot find any current information about Lao Telecom’s phone or internet plans in either Lao or English languages. Their only current presence is on Facebook, but that’s about promotions (not plan offers) Miss Lao calendars and the like. Can you help?

  5. Anyway, you guys are a poor country, 4G means nothing for you haha

  6. Well I don’t like your patronising comment, but you have a point. It’s true that 4G LTE per se is not necessary for a developing country like Laos which has far more important issues that need addressing by the government. It won’t be used by the typical young urban Lao who only uses Facebook and LINE or plays online games.

    What’s frustrating is the promotion and hype by two competing providers who haven’t actually begun their 4G services more than two years after announcing them – and whose 3G service is inefficient and unreliable.

    It now seems that 4G LTE was a oneupmanship marketing ploy, trying to impress the rest of the ASEAN community that Laos was ahead of its neighbours in keeping up with the latest technology, then realising that it would be a loss-making exercise due to the tiny number of users prepared to pay for it: Vientiane’s wealthy elite who buy the most expensive things available just to keep up with their peers and impress their poorer friends.

  7. I have a question. I’m currently visiting Vientiane, will be here for a few months, and we are trying to decided which usb internet to go with. The main use will be watching movies and TV from the US. (Probably a lot of movies and TV.) Any suggestions? I’m not very tech savvy, so “be gentle”, with the ‘what and why’.

    Thanks

  8. Suzy, I think you are going to be disappointed. At certain times of the day you might be able to stream YouTube videos, but downloading and watching them later would be better. There are also daily and monthly data limits. For mainstream US TV or movie services like Hulu, you would need to subscribe to a VPN service which kids the sites into thinking you are located in the US (with a US IP address). Not expensive, but connection speed will still be your biggest problem. As to choosing the best mobile operator, there’s not much between them; they are all slow (1-2 Mbps typical). It will also depend on where you stay and the traffic using the nearest transmitter. You could look at Planet Online’s 4G higher speed service (needs a suitable WiMax not LTE) modem). I use this but have the same issues mentioned above with downloading or streaming from the UK.
    If it’s any consolation you can buy ripoff DVDs (films and some TV series) for a couple of dollars virtually anywhere!

  9. In late January I approached LTC about internet for my sister in law’s new laptop. They offered me the new LTE modem (1,000,000 Kip). It worked great at there office but cautioned me that her home in Vientiane was not fully covered by LTE yet. At home she occassionally got some LTE signal but gernerally switched back to 3G. What amazed me most was that the staff virtually told me that 3G was their old system and 4G was their new system. 3G was always fast and reliable and played youtube videos without constant buffering but now 3G was so bad I couldn’t watch a video. They admitted they were no longer maintaing 3G but concentrating on 4G/LTE. Good business sense would be to continue to provide a good 3G service until LTE was rolled out to cover, at least, all of Vientiane. Obviously not their way of thinking (presuming some thinking took place). I was always very happy with the 3G service but not now. 3G speeds have dropped dramatically. The other consideration they seem to have ignored is that most people own devices such as phones, tablets, etc, that operate on 3G but not 4G/LTE. There view was that people should buy devices that support LTE but this ignores the fact that these devices are not yet currently available in any quantity or variety and the average Laos person does not have the money to buy devices each time telecom providers decide to change their systems.

  10. Thanks for the feedback. I recently spent two months back in Vientiane, but didn’t bother to try 4G LTE at my house. What you wrote sums up the situation very well. Planet Online 4G WiMax is a better option if there is a signal. However, it won’t work on a smartphone or tablet direct; only via WiFi.

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