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Hand Phones and Mobile Phones:

Cellular Phones in Indonesia

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Recent years have seen enormous development in the infrastructure and usage of cellular telephones (cell phones/mobile phones) in Indonesia, known in Indonesia as hand phones. Just as in your home country, there are obvious advantages to the use of hand phones:

  • You can utilize time stuck in Jakarta's notorious traffic jams to make calls.
  • In the event of an emergency on the road you can call for help.
  • Serve as a reliable means of communication as your move around the city.
  • People can leave confidential messages on your voice mail.
  • Your office becomes mobile and people can track you down wherever you are - even on the golf course, on vacation or on a business trip.

Many companies in Indonesia provide hand phones for their managers. They may also pay part of your phone bill, for example paying a set amount of the monthly charges. If your work keeps you out of the office a lot, you may want to ask your firm if they will provide you with a hand phone.

Many expats even provide a hand phone for their driver so that they can easily locate him when out about town.

Choosing a hand phone

A wide variety of hand phones are available for purchase in Indonesia. Internationally known brands predominate Nokia 1180 Hand Phonethe market. The latest models with all the new features are available in Indonesia. Often a new model will be launched in Asia before it is available in the west. The major brand names have dealers/distributors who handle the sales of their phones in Indonesia. Dealers/distributors have kiosks or shops in the major malls or sell their wares through counters in electronics goods stores. Most of the major international brands have customer support stores in many areas of the city to provide help and training on how to use the features of their phones. In Jakarta, ITC Roxy Mas is currently considered the center for handphone sales as the entire building is occupied with hand phone dealers. Prices range from Rp 1.0 juta to Rp 11 juta (1/2012).

Some hand phones purchased abroad will work in Indonesia, as long as you subscribe to the operator that utilizes that phone system in Indonesia. For example, if you own a GSM phone, you can subscribe to Telkomsel (Simpati, Kartus As, karto Halo), Excelcomindo (Jempol, Bebas, ProXL), Three (Hutchison HCPT), Axis or Indosat (Mentari, IM3). Or if you own CDMA phone, you can subscribe to Smart Telecom (Smart), Telkom (Flexi), Indosat (StarOne), Smart Fren, or Bakrie Telecom (Esia). Changing your phone number is as simple as buying a new “kartu telepon” or chip card from your Indonesian operator. The products vary regarding costs of domestic and international calls and SMS, as well as costs for minimum “top up” and international roaming.

Some older chips will not necessarily work in newer model phones and visa versa. With the advancement of technology and the capabilities on the newer phones, they are requiring a more advanced chip to operate them. Hand phones purchased in Indonesia will only work abroad if they are capable of using the operating system in that country. This is a factor to consider if you do a lot of traveling and want to use your Indonesian hand phone on your trips outside the country. This website provides very extensive and useful information regarding international services and compatibility of hand phones for frequent travelers.

Top of the line hand phones (and operators) include many practical features:

  • frequently called phone number list
  • voice mail box - to leave messages
  • call diverting and call waiting
  • screening of calls
  • alarm, calculator, exchange conversion and games
  • data transmission via PC of fax, Email, or the internet!
  • customized phone ring tones
  • cameras
  • MP3
  • GPS
  • video recording
  • video clips
  • and more ...
A major factor in the hand phone you choose is the life of the battery. The best batteries are Lithium. Choose a hand phone that has a battery that is good for up to 5 to 8 hours of usage. Also ask the dealer how long it will take to recharge the battery when it runs down. Better phones take only 1 to 2 hours to recharge. For people that spend a lot of time in their car a charger that plugs into the cigarette lighter of the car is a very helpful accessory.

The length of talk time and standby time is also very important, 60 to 450 hours is common on medium cost phones. Weight of the phone is another important factor. Some phones are down to 143 grams. The battery is the heaviest element of the phone.

Bringing your Blackberry from Home

If you already have a Blackberry in your home country and want to use it in Indonesia, be sure to get the phone "unlocked" before you arrive if it's fixed with your current provider. It's easier to do this in your home country where language won't provide a barrier to getting it done! Contact your service provider to ask for the unlock code for the phone since you'll be taking it overseas and will be using an overseas SIM card with it.

Then, once you arrive in Indonesia, contact one of these service providers to start up your service again XL, Telkomsel. As about the "pay as you go" options, which are relatively cheap. One of the dealers at the many phone shops in the malls can sells you your new SIM card and help you to register.

Other resources for information / assistance on unlocking your blackberry Unlocking Your Blackberry or Cell Corner Blackberry unlocking services.

If you are unable to get assistance from the methods mentioned above, there are technicians in Indonesia that can assist you in unlocking your Blackberry ... once you hunt them down!

Some of the providers offer special Blackberry packages, but you have to subscribe first.



90.000 (first month)

99.000 (continues month)


45.000 (first month)

60.000 (continues month)


65.000 (first month)

80.000 (continues month)



125.000 / month

Full Service

99.000 / month


50.000 / month


50.000 / month


25.000 / month



100.000 / month


45.000 / month


120.000 / month



79.000/ month


99.000 / month

Updated - January 24, 2012

Paying for your Calls

You do not need to subscribe to a service if you use a pre-paid SIM card, often referred to as purchasing "pulsa". These cards can be purchased from phone kiosks and other vendors and used directly. There are several ways to get hooked to a network, and all phone sellers can get you online instantly. You do not need a contract, and a simple pay-as-you-go type SIM card will give you a line and number.

Phone SIM cards are issued by the cellular phone system operators. They are issued with a phone number recorded within the card. There are two types of phone SIM cards:

  1. Pre-paid card - when the amount already paid for runs out, you can purchase more “pulsa” through a kiosk or store that sells the refill pulsa. You actually purchase an activation code (printed on a card) which you punch into the phone. Pulsa can also be purchased through ATMs, and also directly through your handphone - the amount purchased is then debited from your bank account. Most providers, support a function that enables pulsa to be transferred from card to card. This means that a person using the same provider can then send their pulsa to another card. Different operators issue these cards under different brand names. The card may cover a limited area (e.g., Greater Jakarta, East Kalimantan, etc.), all of Indonesia or even sometimes international roaming. Ask the operator about the limitations of the card's coverage. It is more common for pre-paid card users to purchase a card in the country that they are visiting, and usually cheaper that way as well. Some pre-paid cards have a time limit as well as cost limit.
  2. Post-paid system - the SIM cards are based on an abonement or basic monthly charge, plus the usage and all relevant taxes which are billed to your billing address and payable monthly. Requirements for these types of cards have tightened considerably as the incidence of delinquent subscribers increases. Some service providers offer “family abonement” plans or "office plans", in which the main user is charged the normally monthly service rate, but other listed family members or employees receive greatly reduced monthly service fees. The cost of the phone calls remains the same.

Because of the fierce competition between Indonesian cell phone campanies, they often offer special deals or packages during holiday seasons. Pulsa rates vary depending on the promotions that are available. Some credit card companies have set up a program in which they offer free abonement to their customers indefinitely as long as they can continue to use their credit card.

Mobile Broadband Providers

Providers with asterisk offer unlimited service, with the conditions that if you exceed your quota, they will lower your speed to 64 kbps.

Operator Name Service Name Tariif (Rp) Fair Usage
Indosat IM3, Mentari, Matrix 50.000 500 MB / month
    100.000 1 GB/month
Excelcomindo / XL XL Internet Broadband 25.000 500 MB/month
    99.000 2.5 GB/month
    199.000 6 GB/month
Telkomsel TelkomFlash

Basic = 125.000

1.5 GB


Advanced = 225.000

3 GB


Pro = 400.000

6 GB

Three (3) 3 HSDPA


500 MB






2 GB



5 GB

Smart Fren Smart EVDOD


2 GB/month



6 GB/ month



unlimited premium (download / upload speed up to 384 Kbps / 128 Kbps)



unlimited regular ( download speed up to 153 Kbps/ 128 Kbps )

Bakrie Telecom



2 GB/ month
Up to 3.1 Mbps



Unlimited / month
Up to 3.1 Mbps



500 MB/ month


1 GB / month


2 GB / month

Updated - January 24, 2012

Upgrading your Cell Phone

If you want to upgrade your current hand phone, you can still keep the same phone number with GSM phones because the phone number is contained within the microchip and not the phone itself, therefore the phone number moves with the chip to the new phone. If you buy a new hand phone using the AMPS system, the new phone can be reprogrammed in order to keep your old phone number.


Philips Hand PhoneThere are two ways to protect yourself from the consequences of theft if you are using a hand phone. You can program a PIN number into your hand phone card. Persons using the phone card would have to know the code to utilize the card, thus preventing unauthorized persons from running up your phone bill. The second way is through a security code which is programmed into the phone and protects your phone from use with unidentified SIM cards. The thief could continue using the hand phone by replacing your card, however his phone calls would not be billed to your bill. The only disadvantage of using both of these security systems is that in order for you to use your phone you will be asked for BOTH of the pin numbers each time you want to use your phone.

If your phone is stolen, report the theft to your service provider and your phone number can be blocked for a small fee so that no one can run up your phone bill. Then, request that your new card have your old phone number programmed into it, to be used with your new hand phone! Some companies will require a police report to do this If your phone is stolen, the thief could just throw away the card and put in a new card if the phone isn't programmed to reject unidentified SIM cards.

Cellular phone system operators

Cellular phone systems in Indonesia are operated by eight different private companies, all of whom are partially owned by the government phone company, Telkom. Once you have purchased a hand phone, you need to subscribe to one of these services:



Phone Prefix

Pre-Paid Card

Post-Paid Card

Indosat GSM 0815-

Indosat CDMA depends on area code StarOne StarOne
Telkomsel GSM 0811-


Kartu As

Kartu Hallo
XL GSM 0817-
Three GSM 0896-
Three Three Pasca Bayar


GSM 0831-
Axis Axis Pasca Bayar
Bakrie Telecom CDMA depends on area code Esia Esia Pasca Bayar

Mobile 8
Smart Telecom

(Smart Fren)


Telkom CDMA depends on area code Flexi Flexi Pasca Bayar
Ceria CDMA 0828- Sampoerna Telecom  

Updated - January 24, 2012

Information on GSM coverage and roaming for the major hand phone service providers.

*GSM - Global System for Mobil Communications
Intact Hand Phone   CDMA - Code-Division Multiple Access

Cheaper Hand Phone Options

Recently Telkom, Indosat and privately owned Bakrie group have introduced a cheaper alternative to regular hand phones using a Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) system. A fixed-wireless service is a phone service that has limited cellularmobility within a designated area. It charges a rate equivalent to that of a fixed-line service. Some of the fixed wireless services currently available are Flexi (Telkom), Esia (Bakrie Group), StarOne (Indosat), Ceria (Sampoerna Telecom Indonesia) and Smartfren (Mobile 8).

“Flexi” program from Telkom offers its users land line rates, but with the mobility of mobile phones. This program is broken down into “Flexi home” which allows wireless communication anywhere in the home or “Flexi Mobil” which services are comparable to handphone capabilities within the city of operation. Users of Flexi must use special hand phone units issued by Telkom, however they can be used within the service area (now offering service in 114 cities throughout Indonesia).

Star One, Indosat's program has grown is popularity since its launch. Bakrie Group's ESIA program is also gaining popularity due to its ability to use any hand phone on the market that supports the CDMA system. The sound quality is extremely good as long as the user remains within the service area. Prepaid and abonement payment plans are available. Functions such as SMS and high speed data transfer are supported. Service areas are contained within greater Jakarta and Bandung, however the lower rates of the service compared to regular hand phone rates is making it an extremely attractive alternative.

Indosat also has introduced it’s StarOne program that utilizes the same CDMA system. They also allow you to use its system through any phone that supports the CDMA system. Currently StarOne services are available in Jakarta, Surabaya and Malang. Payment can also be made through prepaid post aid arrangements, They support SMS, VMS (voice mail service), internet access, fax and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) , VAS Content : Ringtone,Wallpaper, Java Games, Push To Talk (PTT) and Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS).

Choosing a phone operator

It would be helpful to ask the advice of other expatriates as to what operators they have used. Ask how satisfied they were with the service, and what problems they encountered in using the service. Just by looking at the hand phone numbers of your various colleagues, you will know which operator they use, as each operator uses a different prefix (see chart above).

Ask friends about the following common problems and how often they experience them with the operator they use:

  • Bad transmission, static, interference from structures, cut off transmissions
  • Limits of service coverage - can you receive calls if you are traveling in other parts of Indonesia or overseas (avoid the dreaded 'out of the service area' message by choosing an operator with full coverage). Some buildings also have problems receiving phone calls from certain service providers. Make sure your office building can receive and send phone calls from the service provider you are considering.
  • Security - what actions they take if someone gets your phone number/frequency and runs up your bill

Some of the problems encountered in hand phone usage can seem quite mysterious. For example, why is that one hand phone may have no problems receiving calls in a particular building, while others cannot receive in that building. The difference is in the number of receivers/transmitters, your location - where you are in the building and its structure, as well as other technical factors. If a building does not have a booster, if may not be able to receive mobile phone signals. If the transmission for your call isn't clear - try moving near a window - or to a different side of the building, or even outside to improve the reception.

Hand Phone Rental

If you are only traveling in Indonesia for a short period, you may be able to rent a handphone from your hotel's business center, or from a Serviced Offices facility.

Whether you call them HP, hand phones, cell phones, pocket phones or handy phones ... you'll soon discover the many benefits of utilizing a mobile phone for communications.

Last updated December 19, 2012

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