Two network operators can reduce your costs
Despite being 1 of the 20 largest countries in the world, Mongolia has a population of just 3 million, a little smaller than the size of Melbourne. If you are travelling to Mongolia for business or as a tourist, you can cut down on your expenses by investing in a local prepaid SIM card. This will save money on your data and reduce roaming charges on calls and texts. You can get a prepaid SIM card package for MNT10,000 (AUD$5.34).
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Smartphone network operators in Mongolia
There are two main network operators in Mongolia. They are:
There are two other networks, Skytel and G-Mobiel, but they are not compatible with GSM, and so most tourists can’t access them. MobiCom and Unitel are on 2G at 900 MHz and 1800 MHz, and 3G at 2100 MHz. A 4G/LTE network was opened on 1800 MHz in Ulaanbaatar in 2016.
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MobiCom leads the Mongolian industry with more than 1.7 million subscribers. It was the country’s first mobile network and was established in 1996. 4G is automatically enabled on all new SIM cards. You must show your ID or a passport in order to purchase a SIM card.
MobiCom has two prepaid plans: MobiCard and One. They can be purchased for MNT5,000 without credits on them or for 10,000MNT with MNT5,000 preloaded.
The basic rate for data on both is MNT0.09 per KB. The One plan has a better rate for calls than the MobiCard plan. If you don’t use your account for 30 days, it will expire. To keep the same account and phone number, you must recharge for at least MNT1,000 every 30 days.
MobiCom top-up cards are sold at most convenience stores and grocery stores. You can buy a voucher card with a 16-digit PIN number attached to it. To top-up, dial *212<PIN>#. To check your balance, dial *210#.
There are additional data bundles for the two plans listed below:
|3G Data||4G Data||Validity||Price|
To purchase a package, send an SMS with the original 3G data number to 592. If your phone is set to 4G, you will automatically receive the larger amount. Do not put spaces between the numeral and the GB or MB. For instance, to purchase the 3GB plan, text 3GB to 592. To check your data usage, text “B” to 592.
If you are visiting from another country, there is another intriguing data bundle. This night package is valid from 12am to 8am for seven nights. You get 30GB at a cost of MNT1,500. To purchase, dial S30 to 592.
In recent years, MobiCom has added three Tourist Combo data bundles that have data spread over 15-30 days with more SMS messages and lower international rates. In addition to a set amount of data, there is a credit amount preloaded onto the card that can be used for data (at MNT0.09 per MB), calls or texts. They are:
Short for United Telecommunications, Unitel was founded in a joint venture with South Korea in 2005. It became 100% Mongolian-owned in 2010. It covers 88% of the population. Its 3G network launched in 2009 followed by 4G in 2016 for the following cities:
- Darkhan City
The general consensus is that the Unitel network has better prices but inferior coverage when compared to MobiCom. There are Unitel official stores throughout Ulaanbaatar.The company website has a good map to make it easier to find them. Be forewarned that neither the website, the phone support nor the signage in the stores is in English. English is not a very common language spoken in Mongolia, so it may be difficult to buy a SIM card if it’s your only language. Make sure you bring your ID, passport or a driver’s licence to register your new card.
Unitel has all three SIM card sizes available for MNT3,000 with MNT1,000 worth of credit preloaded. You can top-up with vouchers which have PIN numbers attached to them. Dial #1411<PIN># to top-up. To check your account balance, dial *1411#. Unitel offers three different prepaid plans on an a la carte basis. These plans and their rates are:
The following data bundles can be added onto the Smart Data plan to give you more days of unlimited data with additional credits.
Website (only in Mongolian): http://www.unitel.mn
Advice from TripAdvisor about SIM cards in Mongolia
TripAdvisor is well known for its hotel and attraction reviews, but it has forums dedicated just to SIM cards and telco networks as well. Here’s some advice from a recent visitor to Mongolia.
“You can get (a SIM card) from the airport. Or just ask the taxi driver, they sell cheap sim cards. 5GBs cost around US$30.”
“I bought a MobiCom sim card and didn’t like it. Out of Ulaanbaatar, it didn’t work properly (only in some villages). In Gobi, no way! Meanwhile, our driver had an Unitel sim card that was working pretty well all the time.”
Pros and cons of Mongolia’s top SIM card operators
Mongolia has two main network providers for smartphones. Here is a list of positives and negatives about their coverage and services.
- Most of Unitel’s plans feature unlimited data.
- MobiCom has 4G available in Ulaanbaatar and covers 95% of the population.
- Websites, voice help and in-store signage are all in Mongolian, with very few English speakers to assist you if you don’t speak Mongolian.