3G is Finally Here: Your Questions Answered Below

The below is about the telecom provider Alfa, which I have tested and double-checked myself. I do not own an MTCtouch line and thus cannot elaborate on what they’re doing.

It’s finally available for everyone. The fabled and much-talked about 3G is now be purchased by the fine people of Lebanon. Now, before I go on, let me clarify something that seems to be foggy for many people: What is 3G?

What does 3G mean?

3G is any wireless connection to your mobile that is at least 200kbit/s. Simple as that, there are so called 3.5, 3.75 and other variants of 3G connections, which are often used to indicate much faster speeds (in megabits/second, ours is supposed to be up to 21.1mbps)

How does it work?

If you’re in an area with 3G coverage, you’ll be on 3G, if not, you’ll be using the “2.5G” EDGE connection. That’s what most of you are experiencing on your phones when you think Alfa or MTCtouch are giving you 3G by mistake and light up about it. Your bandwidths are still the same though, so don’t expect to steam YouTube videos just yet.

If I’m on EDGE, do I have to switch to 3G?

No you silly BB users. Your connections have already been automatically changed to 3G when the 3G network coverage is available. However, your bandwidths have not changed yet. They will change the next time you pay your bill or recharge your line.

Prices and Packages?

Basically the same for pre and postpaid lines. Difference is the 3GB and 5GB plans are not available for prepaid lines yet, and in prepaid lines, you can subscribe to “pay as you go” which means you pay for every megabyte you use. BUT, 0.5$ a megabyte is way too much so I definitely would not recommend it, especially when extra MBs for the plans are somewhat cheaper than before (except for BB users, I’m not sure about those prices but I believe they will remain unchanged)

How do I subscribe if I don’t already have mobile internet?

If you’re postpaid, call 111 and enable it. If you’re prepaid, dial 1454 (for Alfa at least) and follow the long process of activating it.

What’s a video call? And should I use it?

It’s like skype on your mobile, and no don’t use it. It’s at 0.4$ a minute! You’re better off draining your cheaper megabytes on skype, so I’d recommend you eithe use a VoIP app like Viber and Skype, or if you insist on having both video and voice why not use Skype or Tango?

Wil BBM?

Considering they already reduced the price at the beginning of October, I expect the prices and data bundles to remain the same. Why do BB users pay so much more than other smartphone users? Well, supposedly, it’s the RIM BlackBerry service which includes the email app and the BBM (they make you pay for it). Alfa and MTCtouch of course charge far more than it’s real price, but hey, who’s complaining? So, 27$ for 200MB a month seems to be what BlackBerry service is gonna stay at. I’d call to double-check for you, but it seems Alfa is swamped with calls and are “too busy to answer” (for the last 3 hours).

Can I switch completely from 2/2.5G to 3G?

Yes, you can enable “3G only” instead of “automatic” or “dual” mode in your smartphone’s settings, but I do not recommend that at all. That’s because the 3G coverage sucks if you’re not in Beirut, and even there it’s shaky, so your mobile will keep desperately searching for 3G when it’s in 3G only mode, draining your battery which will last a fraction of what it’s supposed to in dual mode. So, keep it in dual mode and pray you get 3G/3.5G/H on the top of your device’s screen.

Can I use 3G on my laptop? Other mobile?

Yes, if your smartphone can act as a wifi hotspot, you can activate it and allow your laptop to connect to the hotspot, allowing your laptop to utilize the 3G connection of your mobile. This is called tethering. If your phone doesn’t, you can use a USB dongle to use your 3G-enable SIM on your laptop or computer.

Where is 3G coverage supposed to be?

Red is where 3G is already coveredGray is where it’ll be available in the first quarter of 2012 (first 3 months) and Yellow is where 3G will be available in the second quarter of 2012 (second 3 months) 

For MTCtouch Users, it’s practically the same thing as Alfa users, and its now in-effect. Check their website for more