Laos has currently four telecom operators (Lao Telecom, Unitel, ETL and Tigo/Beeline) and one “internet only” provider (Planet).
3G internet is available for computers through USB 3G wireless Internet modems and for mobile phone users through 3G simcards. Lao Telecom and Unitel have offered 3G for several years, while ETL just recently launched its 3G services.
All three providers are within the same price range, Unitel & ETL being slightly cheaper than Lao Telecom, for example whilst Unitel & ETL charge Kip 100,000 for a 3GB limit. 7GB seems to be the maximum limit on offer by ETL and Unitel on a pre-paid basis.
Regarding speeds, I personally tried both ETL & Unitel and found average speeds to be around 1.8 Mbps. In general, however, it seems that users of 3G Internet are concerned that the increasing numbers of customers using the service will cause low connection speeds. Experts are predicting the Lao IT service market to grow 26 percent in 2011 and despite the service improvements of all three providers, it’s already clear now that they will struggle to keep up with rapidly increasing demand.
In telecommunications, 4G is the fourth generation of cellular wireless standards. It is a successor to 3G and 2G and is considered a wireless backhaul technology in both developing and developed nations. It can provide at-home or mobile Internet access across entire cities or countries.
Planet Computers is currently the only 4G provider, with connections being offered to Vientiane customers only (see our recent article here). Lao Telecom has announced that it will begin offering 4G by the end of this year.
Like the 3G providers, Planet doesn’t have an “unlimited package” on offer, but rather has opted to ‘shape’ internet connections (cut the speed but not disconnect) once a download limit is reached. In regard to speed, the “up to 10Mbps” could be misleading, as I personally never got anything above 2Mbps. If you choose Planet, also make sure that the service is available in the area you are living in.
Other Internet Connection Technologies
Each of the internet providers ETL, Unitel, Lao Telecom, Tigo and Planet offer different types of internet connections such as ADSL, Wireless, HIL and ISDN. Some of the services are up-to-date and reasonably priced (ETL, Unitel). For more details, check out their websites.
What comes next ?
As the Laos internet technology race continues, it’s difficult to say how things will pan out in the future. With too much strain on the network, it could mean slow connections for everyone! I see that 3G providers are currently struggling to keep pace with customer demand while 4G providers are still busy setting up their national network… and for the time being the Vientiane Capital area is not yet completely covered either.
While all providers compete fiercely for new customers, they often seem to forget their existing customer base and how to keep them happy. False promises like the famous “14.4 Mbps” or “up to 10Mbps” may attract new subscribers, but eventually leads to disappointed customers … which you can probably guess, includes me.
All providers (some more than the other) will have to work hard to improve their services and networks while maintaining their existing customers. I truly hope the providers will eventually change their short term strategy of gaining new subscribers to a more customer oriented approach, ensuring stable & reliable internet service at a reasonable price.
What do you think ?
You may comment here or at our special forum “Internet & Mobile Phone Services”
Source: Vientiane Times and providers’ websites