Broadband Internet availability in the Philippines (on the beach)

December 12, 2008 - Filed under General, Planning

Yup, we’re nerdy. We’re traveling with the condition of having internet connectivity wherever we are. And not just an internet cafe or dialup connection. If we’re spending any length of time in one place, we need broadband. For many people an internet cafe will suffice for checking email and logging into Facebook, but when we’re in work mode the volume and size of files we’re dealing with requires a fast connection. Before coming to the Philippines the availability and cost of broadband service was a huge concern of ours. Not wanting to live in a city, was it even possible to get fast internet on a beach?

We spent a lot of time looking for an ISP in the Philippines. There are plenty. Unfortunately, the majority of them are dialup service providers with the few offering broadband service located in major metropolitan areas like Manilla, Cebu, and Bacolod. Even then, service can be questionable depending on the quality of the telephone lines in your neighbourhood. A few service providers offer dedicated lines, but the urban location didn’t make this a viable option for us. We decided to just up and go. Maybe we’d have to resort to satellite internet service? Not out of the question, but expensive.

After arriving and checking what provider the hotels and internet cafes were using in the Visayas (Cebu and surrounding islands) for broadband access we were pleasantly surprised to find that Globe and Smart; the two largest cellular service operators in the Philippines, offer broadband internet services nearly everywhere their cellular service reaches. Globe is also one of the largest landline telephone service operators and provides ADSL service which requires that you have a Globe telephone line running to your house. They offer up to a 3mbps connection for approximately 2000P/month (about $50) which is one of the fastest commonly available consumer package you’ll find in the Philippines at this time without opting for commercial or enterprise service. The only problem is most beach houses don’t have telephone lines.

Smart provides a radio antenna based service called SmartBro. At 384kbps and approximately 1000P/month it seemed to best suit our needs. We went into Dumaguete and signed up and within a week we had an antenna in a nearby palm tree and WiFi throughout the house after installing a wireless router. While not blazingly fast, it is a huge improvement on cellular GSM and shared internet solutions at the resorts we were staying in previously. We’ve had great uptime and our only concern now is power outages which are infrequent in the Dauin area, but possible.

Smart also offers a mobile computer solution. It’s a USB key called SmartBro Prepaid that connects to their GSM network, much the same as using your cellphone via bluetooth to connect to the internet. You buy minutes for the prepaid service just like you do for a prepaid cellphone by buying “load cards” at the shop and SMS texting in the access codes on the back of the card. It’s sold as a broadband solution, but we found that unless you’re in a city center getting full bars, it’s unreliable and the speed is terrible here in Dauin at around 1-5kbps. This would be fine for checking email, but I’ve had to upload a 200Mb file using my cellphone connection before to meet a deadline and it was a nightmare I don’t care to relive.

With the growing availability of broadband plans either through the phone lines or via radio or GSM antennas, we’re rapidly seeing more resorts, hotels, internet cafes, and even restaurants offering free and paid WiFi services to their customers. Great news for traveling nerds in the Philippines! I’m off to the beach to check my email…

Posted by: Shim

2 Comments so far

  1. Miss Jane December 31, 2008 2:02 pm

    Hi Kelly,

    Thanks for posting these blogs of your techy experiences in the Philippines. I can only imagine the refreshing feeling of that breezy ocean air cooling off your warm computer when you are working on the beach. :)

    Love all of your diving photos too!


  2. Photonics and Lighting Forum January 25, 2011 1:32 pm

    ~-* I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives useful information .”-

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