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Old Jul 23, 06, 11:02 pm   #1
 
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Are there prepaid SIM cards in Korea/Japan?

From what I understand, an unlocked 3G/GSM phone such as the Morola V3x will work fine just using my Cingular SIM card. However, the roaming rates are very high.

Basically everywhere else in the world I can easily purchase a prepaid SIM with a local phone number. Is this now also possible in Korea/Japan with 3G handsets? Is it difficult to find a store that is selling these SIM cards? I would probably buy a phone in HKG or Taiwan if I was sure that I could use it in this way.

I'm not very familiar with Korean phones, but I was under the impression that they did not usually contain SIM cards, just like Verizon/Sprint etc. in the USA.
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Old Jul 24, 06, 9:13 am   #2
 
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I was in Korea about three months ago and my quadband GSM Cingular phone did not work the entire time. I believe they are using TCDMA technology. I have not had any problems at the airports in Japan.
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Old Jul 27, 06, 10:02 pm   #3
 
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Thank you Awal. However, it's not clear to me whether the phone you are referring to was a 3G phone. If I am not mistaken, not all quad-band phones are 3G phones, right?

I am aware that GSM phones don't work in Korea since I visit there about 3-4 times/year. What I was trying to find out was how difiicult it is to buy SIM cards there since I am under the impression that basically all Korean phones do not use them?
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Old Jul 27, 06, 11:15 pm   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by merlin
I am aware that GSM phones don't work in Korea since I visit there about 3-4 times/year. What I was trying to find out was how difiicult it is to buy SIM cards there since I am under the impression that basically all Korean phones do not use them?
Your assumptions are correct.

Not sure how SK works but i'd look into a prepaid phone there. I'm going to assume they're sold there and rechargable, it's a decent alternative to buying a SIM since, well, they don't use'em.
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Old Jul 28, 06, 8:50 am   #5
 
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The quadband phone I was using is not 3G. I was under the impression that if there is no GSM service it does not matter what hardware you are using. However according to this link http://www.gsmworld.com/roaming/gsminfo/cou_kr.shtml there is 3G coverage in S. Korea. I do not know how you would go about buying a Sim card.
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Old Jul 29, 06, 6:00 pm   #6
 
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Not exactly GSM with SIM cards, local companies do it, I believe
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Old Aug 3, 06, 10:47 pm   #7
 
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SIM is pretty much a GSM concept. It's technologically possible to have a SIM on CDMA, but it isn't done, mostly because CDMA phones generally can't move between carriers, so there's no need to change SIMs.

There are prepaid phones in Korea, but they don't use SIMs, and they will work only in Korea. Both the phone and the service are expensive. I can't remember specifics since I priced this out, but a basic phone was over $300, and service itself was also more expensive than elsewhere.
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Old Aug 7, 06, 12:51 pm   #8
 
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I don't believe you can even buy stand-alone WCDMA phones in Korea, let alone prepaid USIM cards.

As I understand it, WCDMA in Korea exists mainly for video telephony. Better roaming is a nice plus that's still rolling out (Asian operators being better covered than European, for example).
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Old Aug 7, 06, 12:54 pm   #9
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pynchonesque
SIM is pretty much a GSM concept. It's technologically possible to have a SIM on CDMA, but it isn't done, mostly because CDMA phones generally can't move between carriers, so there's no need to change SIMs.
You can rent a CDMA phone in Korea that takes a GSM SIM. The service is however very expensive to use, SMS doesn't work and the handsets are pretty terrible.
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Old Aug 8, 06, 11:50 pm   #10
 
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No GSM service coverage is actually available in South Korea. This means no GSM phones (that is, none of your GSM, GPRS, EDGE phones) would work there.

The 3G network coverage mentioned above actually indicates the availability of the UMTS (WCDMA) network deployed by SK Telecom and KTF, and it is not compatible for any GSM phones to work with.

Even if you, say, have a UMTS (WCDMA) phone that works either in Europe or in the US, due to difference in network configurations between South Korea and other countries the UMTS phone would not get service there as well. This is because Korean UMTS network utilizes different bands for up/down streams and other factors.

So yeah, the only way for you to get cellular phone service in Korea would be to rent a phone and then having ur original carrier forward your call to the temporary number you receive in Korea. (This may cost you lots of $$$)
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Old Aug 9, 06, 4:00 am   #11
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Auracon
Even if you, say, have a UMTS (WCDMA) phone that works either in Europe or in the US, due to difference in network configurations between South Korea and other countries the UMTS phone would not get service there as well. This is because Korean UMTS network utilizes different bands for up/down streams and other factors.
This is untrue - SK Telecom offers WCDMA roaming for international customers (see SK's WCDMA roaming page). The point of this discussion, as I understand it, is that there's no way to avoid paying the high roaming charges by buying a local SIM, as is commonly done elsewhere.
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Old Aug 9, 06, 11:43 am   #12
 
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I think there are two main points here:

1. Avoid roaming fees by using a local number (ie pre-paid SIM)
2. Keep and be able to use your permenant number for contact

Korea has CDMA, and even 3G should be the CDMA version (CDMA2000?). Therefore they do not offer pre-paid SIM cards for sale. What they do offer is rental cell phones that work on the CDMA network, or rental phones that are dual-mode CDMA/GSM which will let you roam on the CDMA network using your GSM number.

When I was there a few months ago (pre-World Cup) I rented a dual-mode phone from a booth at the arrivals level of ICN. I don't remember the company, but the girls were in Red Devils gear hyping up team Korea for the World Cup. The phone was by LG and worked pretty well with my SIM, so well that I wanted to buy one but could not find any store that carries it. The total fees for the 1 week rental was about $3 USD, but the real cost was in the roaming fees with Cingular, which is corporate so I have no visibility. My colleague rented a pure CDMA phone from another booth nearby, and I think she ended up paying about $40 USD for the week (she made lots of calls home).
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Old Aug 9, 06, 12:02 pm   #13
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Indurain
I think there are two main points here:

1. Avoid roaming fees by using a local number (ie pre-paid SIM)
2. Keep and be able to use your permenant number for contact

Korea has CDMA, and even 3G should be the CDMA version (CDMA2000?). Therefore they do not offer pre-paid SIM cards for sale. What they do offer is rental cell phones that work on the CDMA network, or rental phones that are dual-mode CDMA/GSM which will let you roam on the CDMA network using your GSM number.
Whilst both of these are indeed offered, it is also possible to roam with your own phone and SIM via WCDMA. Korea has both CDMA and WCDMA 3G. See the link I posted above. You are, however, correct that you can't buy a stand-alone SIM.

Quote:
When I was there a few months ago (pre-World Cup) I rented a dual-mode phone from a booth at the arrivals level of ICN. I don't remember the company, but the girls were in Red Devils gear hyping up team Korea for the World Cup. The phone was by LG and worked pretty well with my SIM, so well that I wanted to buy one but could not find any store that carries it.
You won't be able to - they are made specially for the networks.

As far as I can tell:

SK Telecom: Rental and CDMA, WCDMA and GSM roaming. The GSM/CDMA dual mode handsets are pretty horrible.
KTF: Rental and CDMA and GSM roaming. They seem to have a very nice new GSM/CDMA dual mode handset from LG.
LG Telecom: Rental only, I believe.
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Old Aug 9, 06, 1:38 pm   #14
 
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UMTS 'phones'

Quote:
Originally Posted by Auracon
No GSM service coverage is actually available in South Korea. This means no GSM phones (that is, none of your GSM, GPRS, EDGE phones) would work there.

The 3G network coverage mentioned above actually indicates the availability of the UMTS (WCDMA) network deployed by SK Telecom and KTF, and it is not compatible for any GSM phones to work with.

Even if you, say, have a UMTS (WCDMA) phone that works either in Europe or in the US, due to difference in network configurations between South Korea and other countries the UMTS phone would not get service there as well. This is because Korean UMTS network utilizes different bands for up/down streams and other factors.

So yeah, the only way for you to get cellular phone service in Korea would be to rent a phone and then having ur original carrier forward your call to the temporary number you receive in Korea. (This may cost you lots of $$$)
I believe you're about 95% correct. You need CDMA (i believe 2100) and no gsm stand-alone phone will work.

However the newer UMTS phones (not all) will work - for instance Blackberry just launched in mid June their 8707v model that is 3G - it is a quad band gsm unit that is also UMTS 2100 (which means will also work in korea/japan in 3G mode). A couple of other brands also have them; check mobileburn.com and/or howardchui.com for more information.

In HK this unit is available -- www.smartone-vodafone.com. I would assume also available for purchase in Europe. However both the voice and data plans are not cheap -- at least if you subscribe w/ them in HK.

You're best bet is to have a friend or business associate in Korea purchase a permanent Korean number for you. Phones are not cheap but you can then get a relatively inexpensive monthly plan - if you visit often enough, it will work out to be less expensive than rental, and you have a permanent number.

I have used SK Telcom for about 5 yrs - if I call sk telcom subscriber, it's a free call. And there are a few 'access' numbers to use to keep international calls fairly within reason. I visit maybe 4-5 times a year, stay 2-4 days each time and when i did the math last time, it was still worth it.

Last edited by dtsm; Aug 9, 06 at 1:49 pm.
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Old Aug 8, 11, 2:10 am   #15
 
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Can somebody please give an update on GSM in South Korea?

I have a 3yr old Nokia 5310 (900/1800/1900) and would ideally like to buy a prepaid SIM card.

What are my options? Thanks!
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