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With the increasing popularity of smartphones and other smart wireless devices, it has become so convenient for us to bring them along whenever we go on holidays or business trips in order that we may stay connected and entertained. Beware however the charges of data roaming services are much higher than local data services, and the charging mechanism is much more complicated. For your peace of mind and to avoid incurring unexpectedly hefty mobile data charges while you are travelling, it is strongly recommended that you consider subscribing to a data roaming day pass ("day pass") before you leave Hong Kong.

Day pass is a flat-rate daily plan which usually costs under HK$200 per day for mobile data usage. As individual mobile operators impose various restrictions and conditions of use on their day passes, it is imperative that you make the necessary checks and clarifications before purchasing a day pass that best meets your need. If in doubt, you should clarify with your mobile operators on, for example, how the charges are calculated, whether their day passes are valid in your destinations, how you may contact your mobile operators in case you need to do so while you are outside Hong Kong etc. Even after you have got a day pass, you should bear in mind the service restrictions. In particular, you should take note of the following -

Only applicable to designated destinations and networks

These data usage packages are only applicable to designated destinations and networks. You should check carefully which countries are included in the list (and which aren't) and ensure that the day pass you have purchased applies to your destinations. You should also ensure that you are always logged onto the designated network in the visited country. Otherwise, regular data roaming charges which are at a much higher level will be incurred.

You may refer to the list of designated destinations and networks applicable to the day passes offered by individual mobile operators by accessing this link.

Whether additional charges are levied on certain services

You should read carefully the terms and conditions on the kinds of services that are included in the day pass and whether additional charges are levied on other services. Seek confirmation from your mobile operator when in doubt.

Beware of "network switching"

If your handset or smart wireless device is configured to "automatic" network selection, you may experience the scenario of "network switching". This will occur when the signal of the connected network is weak, with your handset or smart wireless device connecting automatically to other non-designated networks which have stronger signals. To avoid hefty data roaming charges arising from such "network switching", you should configure your handset and smart wireless device to manual network selection so that the connection will be confined only to the designated network.

Manual network selection procedures may vary with different models. In general, you may follow the steps below:

  • Go to the "Settings" menu.
  • Select the "Operator" or "Network" sub-menu.
  • Choose 'Manual Network' selection to select your designated network.
  • Save the designated network selection in your handset or smart wireless device.
  • The screen of your handset or smart wireless device should indicate that you have successfully connected to the designated network. You should keep monitoring to ensure that the handset or smart wireless device remains connected to the designated network.

Travelling in Border Areas

You should be careful when you travel near the border areas of an overseas country. Due to over spilling of radio signals across the border, your handset may automatically be switched to the network of the country with the stronger signal, which may be outside the list of the designated destinations or networks of the day pass. It is advisable for you to monitor your handset from time to time when you are travelling in the border areas. Similar switching of networks may take place when you are travelling in the area neighbouring Zhuhai and Macau. Again, you are strongly recommended to configure your handset or smart wireless device to manual network selection to ensure that it will remain connected to the designated network.

Check the service activation and cut-off time

You should be wary of the service activation procedure and the cut-off time of your day pass. In general, the service will be activated only after you have provided confirmation to your mobile operator via a short message and your mobile operator has notified you that the service has been successfully activated. You need to clarify with your mobile operator whether the service will be activated immediately, or whether there will be any time lapse after you have made the confirmation. In the latter case, you should refrain from using your handset or smart wireless device until after you have been notified that the service has been activated.

While your mobile operator may accept your confirmation of service activation of the day pass even when you are not situated in a designated destination, your day pass will only be applicable when you are in a designated destination and are connected to a designated network. Otherwise, regular data roaming charges which are at a much higher level will be incurred.

Check the definition of "a day" for calculation of data roaming charges

The definition of "a day" may vary from package to package. "A day" may be counted based on the local time (00:00 - 23:59) of Hong Kong, or the local time of the destination. The daily charges may also be counted on a per destination basis. For example, if you are traveling from the UK to France on the same day and use mobile data service throughout, the mobile operator may charge you twice as you have already been to two destinations on that same day.

Deactivating the data roaming service

If you do not foresee the need for mobile data roaming services while travelling abroad, you may simply deactivate the mobile data roaming feature of your smart phones and smart wireless devices.