8.23.2020

Voice/Text/Data Communications For Philippines Expats

Voice/Text/Data Communications For Philippines Expats





Table Of Contents:

Talk & Text (In-Country)


Globe and Smart are the two main players for cellular telephone service with Globe being the biggest and having the widest coverage. Where we are there is no coverage for any provider other than Globe.

Your cell-phone or wireless hotspot from out-of-country may work in the Philippines, requiring you only to buy the appropriate sim and load (talk minutes/texts/data). 

These are the frequencies used by Globe at this time:
Globe Teelecom Frequencies
If you need to buy a phone, then there is no end to the choices you will find at the nearest mall. You can pick up a basic no-frills model like this one carrying the Samsung label for less than 1000PHP ($20):

my Samsung B350E
Samsung B350E
Simple "dumb" phones like this one are good because they are cheap, they last forever and they do not get viruses.

Outlets that sell Globe load can be found almost everywhere. I load our Globe sim through my Tattoo Pocket Wifi. Using the web-admin interface I send a text to "2" followed by the 10 digit phone number with by the amount to be shared as the message:

SMS text for sharing load on Globe

The amount shared gets added to the postpaid bill for the wireless Internet account.

Internet Access


As stated before, Globe has the widest coverage for Internet access. When we first arrived in the Philippines there was NO Internet access at our location. Within the year Globe had deployed basic 2G wireless capability and the speed was roughly dial-up. Within about two years after that Globe upgraded our tower with 3G (a significant improvement). We still do not have LTE but they are talking about 5G coming down the pike so we may sublimate from 3g to 5g. With 5G requiring antennas every 500 feet or so I do not see that coming to where we are for many many years. The cities are already testing it though.

Globe At Home


Globe's At Home is an option if you are in a location where it is available. Not all areas are served by Globe At Home at this time and since my location is not I cannot talk too much about it, but I can point you to the Globe At Home where you can find information about prepaid plans. 

Currently, the At Home plan offers two router choices: the Huawei B312 and the Tozed S10G.

If you are located in a serviceable area, then these are some of the plans that may be available to you:



The number I care about most (aside from price) is the data allocation. The freebie consists of HOMEWATCH promos like YouTube, iWant, Netflix, iFlix, TikTok, and NBA.

LTE


It is important to note that the At Home plans are LTE. The Huawei and the Tozed devices are LTE only and do not have fall-back capability to 3g (correct me if I am wrong). 

If you decide to go with an LTE plan you should make sure that you have coverage for LTE in your area. If you already have a sim that you have been using for 3G, then you can check your sim to see if it is LTE capable by texting "SIM CHECK" to 8080. I get the response "Wow! You're already an LTE SIM user. Maximize your data experience by using an LTE-capable device in LTE-powered areas. Thank you."

Globe Mobile Wifi


Check out our review for Globe Mobile WIFI hotspots.

Another option for Globe Internet is ThePlan postpaid Mobile Wifi, which has an array of options. Among the many options available is ThePlan 999. This option, like the name says, costs 999PHP per month. If you go with "all data" you get bumped up to 16 GB of data (plus 1 gig FaceBook or other freebie).


The Huawei mobile wifi unit that I use is several years old. The unit only supports 2G and 3G. I purchased a ThePlan sim two years ago by itself with no device option. Globe service reps told me that the sim would not operate with my old hotspot, but it works just fine. If I need to make calls I simply remove the sim from my hotspot and install it in my spare phone and all calls are charged to my ThePlan 999 monthly postpaid bill.

You can buy a postpaid or prepaid Mobile Wifi sim like I did if you already have your own hotspot and it should work - but maybe not.

You will want to register for SurfAlert, which will prevent you from being charged overages when your data runs out. If you do happen to run out of data within your monthly billing cycle, then all you have to do is register for a promo:


I buy the 1GB promos that cost 50PHP and are valid for three days. When you do the math ThePlan 999 is the best value of all available plans when bumped up with 1 gig promos. Since covid started Globe has temporarily  doubled the 1 gig to 2 gigs.
 
If you have a prepaid sim then you only need to buy load and then you can register for these same promos. You will see signs advertising Globe load everywhere or you can buy load online with a credit or debit card. To buy load online you will first need to register for an account.

SurfAlert 


If you use Globe data, then you want to be sure that you activate SurfAlert:
SurfAlert is a free service that protects you from unexpected browsing charges. When your SurfAlert is on, your browsing will be put on hold and you'll receive free alerts and flash notifications when your mobile phone or device tries to connect to the internet and any of the following conditions are met:
a. Your surf promo has expired

b. You already used up your data allocation from your surf promo

c. You're not registered to a surf promo

d. You try to access a site or app that is not covered by your current surf promo

e. You don't have enough load to continue surfing

Without SurfAlert you will be charged the regular browsing rate of P5 for 15 minutes or P2/MB.

To activate SurfAlert using a smart phone:
Step 1: Dial *143# and press the call button for free.

Step 2: Select MyAccount.

Step 3: Select Mobile internet usage.

Step 4: Select Turn ON mobile internet alerts.

Step 5: Select SurfAlert.

Step 6: Select Proceed.

Step 7: Wait for the text message saying that your SurfAlert has been activated
You can also send SurfAlert commands by text <keyword> to 8080:
  • SURFALERT ON - Turn on alerts
  • SURFALERT HOLD - Turn off alerts for the day
  • SURFALERT OFF - Turn off text alerts permanently

That is the method you will use if you access the Internet through a wifi hot-spot.

International Voice and Text 


We have been using magicJack for over to 10 years now:

magicJack

The service contract used to be $99 for five years. When I renewed a year ago it had gone up to $99 for three years. 

Back in the states the magicJack was our landline and over the years it has probably saved us hundreds or even a couple of thousand dollars.

Today the magicJack website offers the new magicJack for $39.99 and it comes with a year of service. If you are still in the US, then you might be able to find a used unit on Ebay or elsewhere for under $10. If you are already in the Philippines, then you can order magicJack on Amazon and have it delivered to the Philippines. I do not know personally if or how that works, especially in the time of covid.

magicJack has worked out well for most of our purposes, but there are some shortcomings. The quality of calls can be very poor at times. Whenever I make an important call I reboot the PC and the router and close all unnecessary apps to make sure that the connection is as fresh as can be. Still sometimes nothing helps.

Another issue with magicJack is the infamous five minute cutoff. magicJack is well known, apparently, for cutting off one or both sides of a call after five  minutes. This does not happen with every call and it is not always five minutes. Sometimes it is ten minutes and sometimes it is fifteen. If you make it past fifteen minutes, then you are home free.

The potential for cutoff calls is annoying when you have a very important call that requires you negotiate through a maze of options before being handed off to one rep after another only to be cutoff before solving the purpose of the call.

Another shortcoming with magicJack was its inability to send or receive texts. There are many times that this is required for OTPs or other security features. Then magicJack provided a solution for this in magicJack app:

magicJack for android

I have only just started using this app, and it does work for the account security texts that I have tested it for, but there may be some third parties that it fails to receive texts from. I am also not experiencing five minute cutoffs with this app.

Before using the magicJack app I had been using Google Voice for texts, but there are some parties that refuse to send OTPs and other security texts to Google Voice. Still it does help fill in some gaps some times. If you do want to try Google Voice and you are not located in the United States, then you will have to use a proxy to set it up even if you already have a Google account. 

If you rarely use your Google Voice account, then they will send you emails every few months warning you that you have thirty days to make a call or send a text before they reclaim the number. If you are like me and only occasionally use it for OTPs, then you will want to keep an eye on that.

There are some banks etc that do not like to send OTPs to Google Voice or to the magicJack application. They really want you to have a US phone account that can be seen on your credit report.

The option I use for the most important international calls is Globe. Globe's GOCALLIDD promos allow you to call the US for 2.5PHP per minute. The Quality of the call is excellent and the cost is reasonable.

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