When you've just landed in Turkey as a holidaymaker, one of the first things you'll do is power up your device to look for a signal. Likewise, one of the key must-haves for an expat is Internet access for keeping in touch with the family, for business, banking, or simply talking to friends and these days, we can access it 24/7 via our phones, laptops and tablets. So what is the Internet like in a country that is fast becoming one of the primary users on the planet? Who are the movers and shakers, and, more importantly, the cost?
Internet Service Providers and Packages
Turkey has two main Internet Service Providers: TTNet and Superonline. All offer ADSL and connections depending on availability, type (as in broadband, 4.5G, ADSL or dial-up), your location and, of course, your budget.
There is an overwhelming array of packages to choose from, as a stand-alone service, or rolled in with telephone access and these are available from one month to two years. Prices vary and the subscribing process for expats with a home or renting is relatively straightforward: Proof of identity (your residence permit) and a recent utility bill. The connection cost, at least with TTNet, is 96TL.
Turk Telekom, the owner of TTNet, offers the second largest wireless network in Europe and the eighth in the world. It offers speeds from 8MB to 24MB, with pricing structures ranging from 49.90TL to 59.90TL monthly, over a two-year period. Other campaigns are available to take advantage of, including a discounted 2890TL a month for up to 8MB.
Superonline, which is offered by the mobile operator, Turkcell, also provides similar services. Combined packages, including ones offering 1,000MB depending on where the service operates, can vary from 59.90TL to 69.90TL per month.
If you do over-use the allocated download on your package, bandwidth can be reduced extensively - down to even 1MB. So ensure you check your package regularly. If you do cancel and it is a 2-year package, then be prepared to face charges for doing so.
One of the newest providers to emerge recently is Aydin, the electricity provider to Western Turkey from Izmir to Mugla province. Among 14 packages that range between 29.90TL to 59.90TL per month, the most popular is the 44.90TL per month and offers up to 50GB. This particular package is for a two-year period.
Speeds are subject to change almost every minute of the day in Turkey. To ensure optimum performance, test your speed via www.testmy.net/country/tr where it claims that the average download speed for Turkey is 7.4MBPS, and the average upload speed for the country is 2.1MBPS. However, this will vary depending on your location and various other factors.
Expats looking to stay in touch with family over Skype or just access social media forums will be more than happy with the Internet speeds and quality offered. However, when they use Internet TV through their modems, such as the current popularity with XMBC boxes, performance is compromised due to buffering of the TV channel. Similar experiences occur with laptop-based phone providers as the Internet download speed struggles to stay consistent.
Overall, the level of Internet service is not as fast as the UK, but reliability and consistency are around 85 percent. Tourists or location-independent, remote workers travelling with a laptop, can take advantage of hotels, restaurants, and bars offering free Internet usage however security for these connections is generally public and they should not be used for personal internet use such as e-mail and banking.
Expats are slowly turning to independent, minor Internet providers. As an example, installation of one operator's network can set you back about 350TL, with a monthly connection fee of about 30TL.
Accessing Mobile Internet While on the Go
Telephones purchased outside Turkey, can be used for two months before the authorities close it down. To keep access open, register your phone with the authorities. Charges are about 150TL paid to the tax office and then registration with a chosen Turkish mobile phone network to gain mobile Internet access.
Turkish cell providers include Turkcell, Avea and Vodafone, and if you are intending to stay for longer than normal, then you may want to access their services and packages. These vary depending on your budget and the need to remain on the Internet, as well as data access, related voice and text usage.
What this all adds up to is avoiding the costly data roaming fees that befall unwitting travellers who are unsure about their connections, want greater freedoms, and may not be aware that Turkey lies outside Europe and not subject to EU mobile phone legislation.
A new private service increasingly coming into play is one offered by rental sim card providers. You can either use a 3G sim card for ease of access for your chosen device to the Internet via a Wi-Fi hotspot or use the sim card with a tablet with pre-installed software. Devices usually retail at about £5 per day for unlimited internet.
4.5G Comes to Turkey
The latest development in Turkey has been the recent tenders from the government to private operators for 4.5G technology. Turkcell, Avea and Vodafone have all been given the opportunity to provide faster services and 4.5G kicked in on April 1.Turkcell is presently offering the fastest speeds on its systems, with 4.5G being rolled out to 81 cities.
It has also made several commitments to customers including significantly higher data quotas; no penalties when switching between different 4.5G tariffs and customers travelling outside Turkey can enjoy existing packages with no hefty roaming bill charges. There are plans for 4.5G to cover tunnels longer than 1 kilometre, highways, and high-speed train lines within three years, ensuring mobile broadband coverage while on the go.
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