SmartBro Plug-It Prepaid Opens the Floodgates

This bit ‘o news was quietly announced over the Holy Week holidays, so you may be forgiven if it slipped past you while you were off hunting candy colored hard boiled eggs on a white sand beach while in your tutti-frutti colored bunny costume. The product was soft launched at places where vacationers gathered, mainly Boracay, and some NLEX and SLEX gas stations.

Announcing (drum roll please….) Smart Bro Plug-It… the pre-paid edition.


Still gathering the details, but as far as I’ve learned it’s P4,500 for the kit (mainly paying for the the 3G/HSDPA USB modem), and then pay as you go after that. For the non-Filipinos reading this, that’s about US$108.23 at current exchange rates. Pretty inexpensive if I do say so myself.

The kit comes with a prepaid SIM preloaded with P30, after which you pay the standard SMART 3G rate of P10 per 30 minutes, payable via a “Smart Bro Load Card” or standard Smart e-Load.

As you can see from the photo, the modem is black with a blue stripe, which differs from the white Plug-It modem sold with postpaid plans. This nimble little fella hails from those fine purveyors of Chinese telecommunications products, ZTE (humborjers not included).

ZTE of course supplies Philippine telcos with everything from Bayan’s CDMA phones and Globe’s wireless modems – it does lead a scandal free life for the most part!

Just how fast does this puppy purr? As always, connection speed is 384 kbps where 3G is available, throttling down to EDGE and GPRS speeds in other areas. It’s HSDPA capable in areas that support it.

The package is being rolled out at Smart Wireless Centers in the NCR, with distribution throughout the rest of the country scheduled soon afterwards.

Rates you say? Here are the rates:

Mobile broadband has traditionally been a fairly expensive affair in the Philippines, but this product looks poised to blow that idea out of the water by actually making it affordable to the everyman.

Here’s the full product FAQ from the Smart Bro website.

I’m going to try to get hold of a test unit to take for a spin, and I’ll report on the results right here.

23 thoughts on “SmartBro Plug-It Prepaid Opens the Floodgates

  1. Hi Fr. Jessie, thanks for dropping by! The package as announced is P4,500 which consists of the USB modem, a prepaid 3G-provisioned SIM and P30 load (good for 90 minutes of connect time),

    After this, you pay for connect time via are standard Smart e-Load and the standard mobile Internet / 3G rate of P10 per 30 minutes.

  2. This is great for people who doesnt have a 3g phone. if you have a 3g Phone then you dont need this smart bro plug-it, you just need to use your smart 3g phone as modem. Smart Bro plug-it and smart 3g as modem uses same technology, they also the same rate per 30 minutes.

  3. Heya Jim!

    Might I ask if this baby runs on a MacBook Pro? When Ava told us about this, she said it can work with the Mac platform. Hope I can get my hands on a test unit from SmartBro sometime soon…heheh…


  4. @Mike Antigua, just got a text from Jan Blando of Smart, the ZTE 3G modem comes with a CD of drivers that happens to include the Mac drivers. Haven’t tested this yet, but Chette is supposed to get a MacBook Pro herself soon (work issued) so that might be a good chance to try it!

  5. @Skiper – that’s correct, they all use the same 3G network, but I would still see some performance improvements and convenience from using a dedicated 3G modem over using a 3G phone as a modem, mainly due to:

    a) Battery consumption – Using a 3G phone as a modem over a long-ish amount of time (30 minute to an hour, or about P20 worth of load) really eats up the battery of the phone. This increases further if you get an incoming call while connected to 3G – or if you connect via Bluetooth rather than a cable.

    b) Throughput – not all have 3g phones connect to laptops/computers through a true USB 2.0 connection. Older 3G Nokias for example, still make use of the old data port and cable (DKU-2 I believe), which isn’t a true USB cable – it’s actually a serial cable that connects to the laptop’s USB port. As a serial communications cable, data is throttled down to around 480 Kbps or so – not bad for a 384K 3G connection but too slow for an HSDPA connection. As for other brands like Sony Ericsson – sometimes the data throughput on the cable goes down as low as 115 kbps (I had a P800 and this was what I would get). This being the case you will never experience real 3G.

    c) Convenience – If you’re downloading a big file, you want the peace of mind that an incoming call won’t interrupt the download. Solution – keep your phone for calls/text/mobile surfing. Your laptop deserves another device.

    d) Nokia/Ericsson PCSuite – no need to run these memory hogs! 🙂 Just use the smaller modem driver.

    Ultimately the most convenient solution is a laptop with a built-in HSDPA modem so you just slide the SIM in. But those laptops are still pretty expensive compared to external USB modems.

  6. Your right theres a limitation in using 3g phone as your modem. Its just my back up plan if I need to connect when im not at home 🙂

    If PC Suite is not needed, then I need to find modem driver for my phone to free up some memory space.
    Thanks Jim

  7. hi,

    i just want to clarify something re prepaid smart bro plug it prepaid. as long as there is a signal wherever i go meaning as long as i can make a phone call using my smart cellphone, i can connect to the internet using this plug in device on my laptop with the same published speed which is 300 something kbps? i don’t know if there is a difference between hsdpa area and location where i can make a phone call using smart cellphone.
    thank you.

  8. I also want to know how faster it is compare to 3G. I already talked to a technical engineer and they said it’s faster. Though I still want to try. They said it depends on signals also used by 3G.

    Have you tested and compared 3G vs Prepaid Broadband?

  9. @pablo – I dunno if I get your question totally, but I’ll give it a shot.

    When you check your signal strength via the bars on your handset that usually just refers to GSM – the strength of the signal needed for calls and sms.

    But for measuring your data connection, there are different methods for metering this depending on your handset. On the Nokia S60 2nd and 3rd ed phones you see a little pair of lighting bolts on the upper left hand corner. When you have a 3G connection it shows “3G”.

    There are four types (from slowest to fastest) available – GPRS, EDGE, 3G (UMTS), and 3.5G aka HSDPA. When you connect to the Internet with your mobile phone or modem using Smart’s internet APN it will try to connect you to the fastest speed possible given the capabilties of your handset and the network in your area.

    3G (384K max) is pretty much all over the country, but if you’re fortunate to have a HSDPA device and are in an HSDPA covered area that can go over 1mbps. I dunno what that will look like on an HSDPA phone, on an HSDPA modem you might see an “H” icon to indicate you’re in the fast lane.

    Similarly, you might be in an area with no 3G coverage so you connect at GPRS/EDGE speeds.

  10. Thanx for the info, I havent seen this since its not yet in the provinces. Today tho, using my fone as modem I’m experiencing low pings but SLOW speeds, I hope its NOT related to this new service by smart coz I may have to look for an alternative!

  11. it’s a bit expensive for the modem, do we need to outright pay for the 4500 to have the unit??? and ist available to all smart branches??? where can we avail the load???

  12. Guys, I bought one yesterday from Smart wireless center at Shang. I am not satisfied with the speed. Maybe because i am used to high speed connections in the office and in using the pldt weroam when working from home. Just bought one for my personal laptop and for personal use. I can live with it i guess, especially when going out of town.
    Any of you who knows where are the HSDPA covered areas?

  13. Hi,

    I’ll be home for 3 months this year, so I am really looking for a prepaid internet connection. Do you think this prepaid smartbro will work on my HP Tablet PC? I read somewhere that tells about Mac?


  14. Good day! Smart bro kit includes CD for MAC users, I think theres no problem about it… With regards to the connection, Its really erratic, sometimes my its laggy when im playing online…

  15. @hman – A number of Smart’s 3G base stations have been upgraded to support 3.5G (HSDPA). I’ll try to look for a listing of locations and post it here. This is available to Smart mobile subs, Smart Bro plug-it, and PLDT WeRoam.

  16. @sylki – the ZTE modem also acts as a USB flash drive, and comes preloaded with Windows drivers (for XP and Vista). There is an extra CD included in the kit that contains Mac OS X software.

  17. Does it work with Windows ME (Millenium). I know that is old windows but I must use Japanese language windowns for seamless connections to Japanese government websites I use for my work. Nobody sells Japanese windows here so if it does not work I will not buy, unless for some reason I go to Japan. My experience is if it works with English Windows ME it works with the Japanese version. I heard it even works with Windows 98, then it would almost surely work with WindowsMe.

  18. @roderick seeman – The software works with the descendants of Windows NT – that is, Win 2000, XP, and Vista. No word about the children of Windows 95 – meaning Windows 98 and ME. I don’t think it works with those old OS’es.

  19. How about support for Linux? I’ve tried using the Huawei modem that you competitors sell and it has an easy driver install for Linux. Of course I had to go to some Web site, download a package and compile the driver, but it’s just a one-off thing.

    A friend of mine actually gave me a prepaid kit that comes with a USB stick form factor. What’s the device spec? And can you point me to Linux drivers?


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