- 1 Basics
- 2 Nepal Telecom (NTC)
- 3 Ncell
- 4 Smart (by Smarttel)
Nepal has three GSM mobile operators:
- Nepal Telecom (state owned)
- Ncell (owned by Axiata)
- Smart Cell (by Smart Telecom, limited coverage on 2G, 4G/LTE; no 3G)
Additionally United Telecom Limited (UTL) provides limited mobility CDMA-based services which is incompatible to GSM devices and not mentioned any further.
2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz and 3G on 2100 MHz. In 2016 the government of Nepal has begun the process of converting existing wireless licences to technology neutral permits, enabling operators to use their current 900 MHz for 3G and free their 1800 MHz (B3) frequency holdings to offer 4G/LTE services. 4G/LTE has been launched by all three providers in 2017.
Have in mind that given its mountainous territory, coverage can be very spotty and data speeds extremely slow outside the Kathmandu central valley or Pokhara.
All SIM cards must be registered in Nepal at the point of purchase. So you have to go to an outlet of the operator and show your passport. They will take a photo of you and copy your passport there. You can speed up things, if you provide a passport-sized photo and a photocopy of the face side of your passport, as their equipment is often not working. Furthermore, you have to fill out a customer application form.
Nepal Telecom (NTC)
Nepal Telecom (NTC) is the state owned, national provider in Nepal. It has a monopoly on landlines and broadband, but competes with Ncell for mobile customers. In 2017 it held about 50% of the mobile market.
NTC uses 900 Mhz for 2G and 2100 Mhz for 3G. Simultanously, it runs a CDMA network too which will be switched off by 2021. GSM-coverage is slightly lower than Ncell. Until 2017 only about 60 3G sites have been installed and on air including Banepa, Bhaktapur, total 59 sites in Kathmandu and 1 site in Pokhara.
4G/LTE has started as first provider in Nepal in 2017 on 1800 MHz (B3) only in the Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara only opened for prepaid. NTC signed 40,000 LTE users in two weeks alone. In 2019/20 the 4G network was expanded and it has 4G coverage at these locations (list).
Their prepaid card is called "Namaste" (Welcome). It is available in their stores and sales outlets for Rs. 90. It contains a welcome letter with SIM serial number, mobile phone number, PIN/PUK numbers and security cod, an User's Guide and the SIM card. It includes Rs. 10 airtime, 40 domestic minutes and 60 MB data for a start.
For their 4G/LTE service you need a new 4G/LTE compatible SIM that is sold in their shops in the coverage areas of the Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara. To activate 4G service dial *444#.
Your Namaste account is instantly activated, when you make your first call. Either you can dial 1414 or any other number for the first call. Your first call will be diverted to Nepal Telecom Management Centre and you will hear voice prompt from our system. Along with the Namaste service information, you will be given the option of choosing the language (English or Nepali) at this time. Make choice according to your need. After the release of this call you can use the Namaste service.
Recharge cards are available in five denominations of Rs. 50, Rs. 100, Rs. 200, Rs.500 and Rs.1000 giving 30 days to 2 years of validity.
Data feature packages
NTC's default prepaid data rate is Rs. 1 per MB. They have introduced these data packages for 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE. Taxes are included:
|unlimited||1 hour||Rs. 20||FDPACK|
|80 MB||24 hours||Rs. 10||DATA80MB|
|200 MB||24 hours||Rs. 15||DATA200MB|
|60 MB||1 day||Rs. 15||DATA60MB|
|250 MB||1 day||Rs. 25||ECO250MB|
|1 GB||1 day||Rs. 45||1D1G|
|300 MB||7 days||Rs. 60||DATA300MB|
|700 MB||7 days||RS. 100||ECO700MB|
|7 GB||7 days||Rs. 250||7D7G|
|2 GB||28 days||Rs. 260||DATA2000MB|
|6 GB||28 days||Rs. 500||DATA6000MB|
|14 GB||28 days||Rs. 700||DATA14000MB|
|28 GB||28 days||Rs. 850||28D28G|
|12 GB||42 days||Rs. 990||DATA12GB|
For activation text code to 1415.
They also released nighttime packs valid 11pm to 6am:
- regular nighttime pack:
- 400 MB for 1 night: Rs. 12, activation: Night400MB
- 'unlimited' nighttime packs: when used more than 1 GB per night, throttled to 256 kbps:
- for 1 night: Rs. 18, activation: NUNL
- for 7 nights: Rs. 90, activation: UNL7
For social media use (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter), they issued these social media packs:
- 70 MB for 1 day: Rs. 10, activation: FB70MB
- 250 MB for 3 days: Rs. 35, activation: FB250MB
- 600 MB for 7 days: Rs. 65, activation: RB600MB
For video streaming with YouTube, these packs are offered:
- 300 MB for 1 day: Rs. 15, activation: YT300MB
- 650 MB for 3 days: Rs. 30, activation: YT650MB
- 1.4 GB for 7 days: Rs. 60, activation: YT1400MB
All activation codes by SMS to 1415, all rates include taxes.
- APN: ntnet
Ncell is the no.2 in Nepal with 46% share and was renamed 2010 from Mero Mobile. In 2015/6 it was sold from Telia to the Malaysian Axiata Group giving it a new logo.
Its 2G is on 900 and 1800 Mhz and reaches 90% of population, 3G is on 2100 Mhz in about 20 of the biggest towns. Ncell Coverage Map. Ncell is the better provider in the country, but there are still many areas uncovered and don't expect high speeds.
The start of their 4G/LTE was further delayed in 2017 by taxation issues and was finally launched in June 2017 on 900 and 1800 MHz in the Kathmandu Valley, including the areas of Nagarkot, Banepa and Dhulikhel. In summer 2017 the cites of Biratnagar, Birtamode, Damak, Dharan, Bharatpur, Hetauda, Birjung, Bhairahawa, Butwal and Nepalgunj were added to the 4G/LTE network. In 2019 seven of the country’s provinces and over 1,000 locations nationwide are covered, making it Nepal’s most extensive 4G network.
Ncell SIM cards can be bought from a number of street stores, and require a passport photocopy (which the vendor will make) and a passport photo (which you bring). Some stores also take two thumbprints on the application form: Ncell Store Locators.
The price for starter pack is Rs. 99 with Rs. 50 of credit and 60 domestic texts, 40 domestic minutes and 20 MB of data valid for 7 days. You can purchase top-up scratch cards from Rs.10. For top-ups over Rs. 100, you get 5-12% bonus on top. They have two tariff lines for prepaid called Sajilo and Ramro, which don't make a difference for data.
To top-up by scratch card, type *102*<voucher code>#. For balance check enter *101#. Also strangely the recharge cards sold in shops (in amount of Rs. 50, 100, 200, 500) don't give you the full amount, again due to some tax reasons, so you actually get something like Rs. 49.02 credit for the Rs. 50 recharge card.
Online recharge can be done from anywhere by visiting Ncell Recharge Website. You can also recharge your prepaid number via global online portals such as ding.com, swiftrecharge.com and recharge.com which allows to buy recharges from anywhere in the world. Though the prices are higher comparing to the domestic portal, which includes service fee.
Data feature packages
Default tariff is Rs. 2.75 per MB depending on base plan, so better get one of these packs:
|4G Data Packs:|
|Night Data||Total Data||Time||Price (tax incl.)|
|35 MB||35 MB||35 MB||105 MB||1 day||Rs. 11.49|
|75 MB||75 MB||75 MB||225 MB||1 day||Rs. 19.15|
|120 MB||120 MB||120 MB||360 MB||3 days||Rs. 37.03|
|200 MB||200 MB||200 MB||600 MB||3 days||Rs. 44.49|
|300 MB||300 MB||300 MB||900 MB||7 days||Rs. 88.11|
|500 MB||500 MB||500 MB||1.5 GB||7 days||Rs. 95.77|
|1.3 GB||1.3 GB||1.3 GB||3.9 GB||30 days||Rs. 343.49|
|3 GB||3 GB||3 GB||9 GB||30 days||Rs. 453.30|
|4 times on 4G|
|35 MB||35 MB||70 MB||1 day||Rs. 11.49|
|120 MB||120 MB||240 MB||3 days||Rs. 37.03|
|300 MB||300 MB||600 MB||7 days||Rs. 88.11|
|1.3 GB||1.3 GB||2.6 GB||30 days||Rs. 343.49|
|Data Pack with Video offer (1 hour per day)|
|Night Data||Total Data||Time||Price|
|750 MB||1 day||750 MB||1.5 GB||1 day||Rs. 49.80|
|2 GB||3 days||2 GB||4 GB||3 days||Rs. 126.41|
|7 GB||7 days||7 GB||14 GB||7 days||Rs. 254.10|
|16 GB||30 days||16 GB||32 GB||30 days||Rs. 1,020.24|
All rates are including 13% taxes now. Activation is by *17123#.
Visit Ncell Recharge Data Packs to buy data packs.
For 30 days packs, once the purchased volume is consumed you can browse internet at just Rs.1 per MB (exclusive of taxes) until validity of the packs. For other packs, standard PayG rate of Rs. 2 per MB (excl. taxes) will apply once the purchased volume is consumed.
Video data can be used to enjoy YouTube, iflix, all Ncell video portals and other Google services like Google Play, Maps, etc. Night data is valid 10pm to 6am. 4G data is only valid on 4G network.
Ncell sells a data-only SIM in connection with a USB dongle called Ncell Connect. It's unclear, if you can get the SIM without the modem. The dongle is sold at Rs. 2699 (+13% taxes) with 500 MB data included. Default data is at Rs. 2.26 per MB (tax incl.) and following monthly packs are offered:
- 500 MB: Rs. 509.48 - activation: text '500 MB' to 9009
- 1 GB: Rs. 892.55 - activation: text '1 GB' to 9009
- 5 GB: Rs. 2552.52 - activation: text '5 GB' to 9009
Taxes are included. To check data balance of your package, text 'status' to 9009.
Axiata roaming offer
As Ncell now belongs to the Axiata group, it offers discounted roaming on their other networks in the region: Robi in Bangladesh, Smart in Cambodia, XL Axiata in Indonesia, Celcom in Malaysia, Dialog in Sri Lanka, M1 in Singapore, Vodafone in Qatar and Vodafone-Idea in India. "Unlimited" data roaming is given out for Rs. 100 per day (plus 27.69% taxes).
To activate the service, dial *17129# and follow instructions. Roaming service must be activated prior to leaving Nepal. Standard roaming charges will be applicable, if you are connected to other networks while roaming.
The Travellers SIM was introduced in 2019 and is a special SIM card for people visiting Nepal from abroad. This SIM card is only available for foreign nationals. They need to submit below documents to get the Travellers SIM: photocopy of valid passport, arrival visa and a passport sized photo. Foreigners can get this SIM from our Ncell centres, TIA (airport) POS, and other major POS in touristic areas.
This SIM costs Rs. 110 (incl. of taxes) with a main balance of Rs 30 and 300 MB valid for 3 days. These packages can be added to the Travellers SIM:
|Light||7 GB||20 mins||7 days||Rs. 490|
|Medium||14 GB||30 mins||14 days||Rs. 980|
|Heavy||21 GB||40 mins||21 days||Rs. 1470|
|Super||28 GB||50 mins||28 days||Rs. 1960|
To subscribe, dial *17105# and follow the instructions.
Smart (by Smarttel)
Fixed-wireless operator Smart Telecom was granted a licence in 2013 allowing it to expand into the mobile market. It used to be called Smart Cell, but is now rather called Smart.
So far it only has coverage in a few provinces and can't be recommended for travelling (coverage map). They only had 4.4% of Nepal's mobile market in 2017.
They are on 2G/GSM on 1800 MHz. In 2017 a license to use 4G/LTE was granted to Smart and in October 2017 Smart has finally launched its long-awaited 4G/LTE service, with the company stating that it is now live in Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Pokhara. The new 4G service offers customers speeds of up to 70 Mbps. Smart Telecom has been granted 10 MHz of frequencies in the 1800 MHz (B3), while its two competitors Nepal Telecom (NT) and Ncell have only been allocated 5 MHz each in this spectrum band.
They sell two SIM cards at Rs. 99 in their starter pack containing Rs. 90 credit, 10 mins, 10 SMS and 200 MB for 30 days. For their new 4G be sure to get a 4G enabled SIM.
Recharge cards are sold in values of Rs. 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000. To top-up by card, enter *122*<PIN Code>#.
Certain recharge cards give special bonus:
- recharge of Rs. 100: main balance of Rs. 98.04 and bonus of 400 MB, 10 mins, 10 SMS for 7 days
- recharge of Rs. 200; main balance of Rs. 196.08 and bonus of 800 MB, 20 mins, 20 SMS for 15 days
- recharge of Rs. 500: main balance of Rs. 490.20 and bonus of 3 GB, 100 mins, 100 SMS for 30 days
- recharge of Rs. 1000: main balance of Rs. 980.40 and bonus of 6 GB, 200 mins, 200 SMS for 30 days
Data feature packages
Default data rate is Rs. 1.92 per MB (tax incl.) and can be added by these packages (taxes incl.):
|1 GB||1 day||Rs. 37.03||*141*3*1*1#|
|2 GB||7 days||Rs. 88.11||*141*3*1*2#|
|2 GB||15 days||Rs. 113.64||*141*3*1*3#|
|4 GB||30 days||Rs. 254.10||*141*3*1*4#|
|10 GB||30 days||Rs. 407.33||*141*3*1*5#|