In order to stay connected, consumers these days will more often than not bring along their mobile phones when travelling outside Hong Kong, whether on business trips or vacations. While charges of other telecommunications services have fallen drastically over the past decade, those for MVRS remain at relatively high levels. For example, it costs around HK$7 per minute for a Hong Kong user to receive an incoming call in Shenzhen using MVRS.

Are there any more affordable substitutes for MVRS?

Consumers may consider using the following services as substitutes for MVRS when travelling outside Hong Kong. Generally speaking, these substitutes are more affordable. For example, it costs less than HK$1 per minute for a Hong Kong user to receive an incoming call in Shenzhen by using these substitutes:

How to use the substitutes? What are their advantages and limitations?

Single-Card-Multiple-Number Service ("SCMNS")

SCMNS is offered by some mobile operators (including mobile network operators and mobile virtual network operators). An SCMNS user will be provided with a SIM card that supports a few local mobile numbers for use in several places, e.g. Hong Kong, the Mainland, Macau and Taiwan. When the user travels to one of those destinations, his/her mobile phone will select the local mobile number in that destination for users to make calls.

AdvantagesLimitation
  • No need for users to carry multiple SIM cards and switch cards when travelling to different destinations.
  • Users can make and receive calls at the local numbers of their destinations and are charged local rates.
  • Users can continue to receive incoming calls made to their Hong Kong numbers.
  • Currently, SCMNS is available in a few destinations only, e.g. the Mainland, Macau and Taiwan.
  • As SCMNs involves the use of numbers provided by mobile operators outside Hong Kong, the use of SCMNs is subject to the requirements imposed by those mobile operators or the relevant authorities outside Hong Kong from time to time.

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Call Back Service ("CBS")

CBS is offered by some of the services-based operators and fixed network operators providing external telecommunications services. CBS allows users to make outgoing calls at lower rates when travelling outside Hong Kong. The diagram below illustrates how to use CBS.

Call_back_service

Some mobile operators in Hong Kong also provide CBS. The diagram below illustrates how to use CBS provided by mobile operators.

In_destination

AdvantagesLimitation
  • Lower charging rate for making calls.
  • CBS can be used in most destinations in the world.
  • CBS is for making outgoing calls only (i.e. not for receiving incoming calls).
  • It takes a longer time to establish a call connection.
  • Users need to have access to a local phone in their destination for making calls and may incur charges in dialling a call to the CBS number (save for CBS provided by mobile operators).

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International Call Forwarding Service ("ICFS")

ICFS is offered by some of the services-based operators and fixed network operators providing external telecommunications services. ICFS allows users to forward incoming calls made to their Hong Kong mobile numbers to a local mobile or fixed number in users' destinations, such that the users can still be reached via their usual Hong Kong mobile numbers. The diagram below illustrates how to use an ICFS.

Before_departure

AdvantagesLimitation
  • Users can continue to receive incoming calls made to their Hong Kong mobile numbers when travelling outside Hong Kong.
  • Lower charging rate for receiving calls.
  • ICFS can be used in most destinations in the world.
  • ICFS is for receiving incoming calls only (i.e. not for making outgoing calls).
  • Users need to have access to a local mobile or fixed number in their destination for receiving calls.

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International Calling Card Service ("ICCS")

ICCS is offered by some of the services-based operators and fixed network operators providing external telecommunications services. ICCS enables users to make outgoing calls back to Hong Kong or to other places when travelling outside Hong Kong. Before leaving Hong Kong, the user needs to register with the service provider, and once that is done, will be provided with a “Calling Card Number” and a personal identity number. After the user has reached his/her destination, he/she can dial the specified number and make a call following instructions given over the phone to Hong Kong or to other places.

AdvantagesLimitation
  • Lower charging rate for making calls.
  • ICCS is available in most destinations in the world.
  • ICCS is for making outgoing calls only (i.e. not for receiving incoming calls).
  • Users need to have access to a local phone in their destinations for making calls.

Alternatively, consumers may purchase international calling cards in their destinations for making calls back to Hong Kong or other places. However, there may be language barriers when purchasing and using these international calling cards.

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Voice over Internet Protocol ("VoIP") Service over Mobile Data / Wi-Fi Network

Some of the fixed network operators and services-based operators offer VoIP services which may be used in Hong Kong and other places. Some VoIP services enable users to make and receive VoIP calls through mobile data or Wi-Fi connection. Users would need to download the VoIP software or application, install and run it on their computers or smartphones in order to make and receive VoIP calls.

AdvantagesLimitation
  • Lower charging rate for making and receiving calls.
  • Users are not able to receive incoming calls made to their Hong Kong mobile numbers.
  • Users would need to have a computer or a smartphone installed with VoIP software or application.
  • Cost may be incurred for accessing the mobile data or Wi-Fi service.
  • The use of VoIP service may be prohibited in some destinations.

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Local Pre-Paid SIM Card

Users may purchase local pre-paid SIM cards in their destinations and insert them in their mobile phones for making and receiving local calls, which are charged at local rates.

AdvantagesLimitation
  • Local calls are charged at local rates.
  • Users are not able to receive incoming calls made to their Hong Kong mobile numbers.
  • There may be language barriers when purchasing and using the local pre-paid SIM cards.
  • Service providers in some destinations may be required under their laws or regulations to verify and record the personal particulars of customers who purchase pre-paid SIM cards.
  • The un-used balance of the pre-paid SIM card may go to waste.

Consideration in Selecting the MVRS and their Service Substitutes

MVRS and their service substitutes have their own advantages and limitations. Before subscribing to or using any of these services, consumers are reminded to obtain information on coverage areas, tariffs, terms and conditions, and instructions of use from the service providers, in selecting a service or a combination of the services that best fit their needs and budget.

Set out below are the lists of various types of operators in Hong Kong providing MVRS and their service substitutes:

  1. mobile network operators
  2. mobile virtual network operators
  3. fixed network operators providing external telecommunications services
  4. services-based operators providing external telecommunications services
  5. services-based operators providing VoIP services

Office of the Communications Authority
28 October 2016

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