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Taiwan GSM--Prepaid SIMs in Taiwan Get More Difficult to Obtain
I'm in Taipei now, attending a trade show, and I thought I'd stroll
down to the local 7-11 or other convenience store (literally every 50
meters or so) and pick up a SIM card as I've done in the past.
Apparently the government was concerned that too many criminals were
buying prepaid SIM cards with fake IDs, and has restricted their sale.
You now must go to a phone company office, present two forms of ID,
including a passport and some sort of official ID card. They
scrutinize the IDs very carefully, matching photos and checking
expiration dates. They make copies and FAX them somewhere, and your
phone gets turned on a couple of hours later. These phone company
offices don't open until 11 a.m. Apparently the office I went to had
never sold a SIM card to a foreigner before, and it took three
employees about 30 minutes to complete the transaction. I was glad
that I didn't leave my driver's license at home, as I often do. Not
sure if they would have accepted a Costco card as a picture ID!
If you arrive between 8 am and 9 pm to the international airport there
are two stores there. One is open noon-9 pm, one is open 8 am-5p.m.
The coverage in Taiwan is amazingly good, even in the extremely
mountainous and unpopulated interior of the country (and the carrier
that my SIM card is from is mostly at 1800 MHz, making it even more
Unfortunately at the new convention center, the capacity is
insufficient, and it can take multiple attempts to get a connection on
GSM. I also had my Verizon CDMA phone with me, and it roams in Taiwan.
Coverage is equally good as far as I could tell, and since it's fairly
new it's not suffering from capacity issues yet. Most highly populated
countries in Asia are adding CDMA systems to increase capacity
(Taiwan, China, India). There is prepaid CDMA in Taiwan, but you need
a CDMA phone that can accept a RUIM card, which I'd have no idea were
For calling the U.S. from Taiwan, I use OneSuite and a pay phone or
hotel phone rather than the prepaid phone if possible, as OneSuite is
only 2¢ a minute and has local access numbers in Taiwan.
I use MyGlobalTalk.com to forward calls from a U.S. number to the
prepaid cell phone. This works really well, because I can give someone
a number that doesn't change as I move from country to country.
There is 3G W-CDMA in Taipei, that according to my Taiwanese friend
runs at about the speed of a dial-up connection because it is so over-
subscribed. So apparently the change away from unlimited usaga that
the U.S. carriers are adopting has a basis, and the reason for the
iPhone not being 3G may also be related to capacity concerns.
The carrier I used is FarEastone, "http://www.fetnet.net". Their web
site doesn't function correctly in Firefox, only in IE. Supposedly you
can recharge on-line remotely, and about $10 every six months keeps
the account active.
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