Romania has become well-known for its fast, wired internet — how does the mobile internet in Romania compare?
A digital nomad can’t live without the internet. The following guide will show you everything there is to know about finding the best mobile internet in Romania.
The Romanian authority for the administration and regulation of communication (ANCOM) regularly publishes data detailing the mobile internet speed of all ISPs and mobile phone operators in Romania. The data is captured using the web portal netograf.ro, developed by ANCOM for Romanian citizens (and visitors), who want to test their internet connection accurately, independently and for free.
Mobile internet in Romania — the need for speed
For the following table, we used the most recent data (for prepaid cards) at the time of writing (Q3 2016):
|mobile phone operator||Download outdoor (Mbps)||Download indoor (Mbps)||Upload outdoor (Mbps)||Download indoor (Mbps)||Ping outdoor (ms)||Ping indoor (ms)|
Keep in mind: The data shows the average speed, which might or might not reflect the speed you will get at your location. For example, in February 2017 we were in Râmnicu Vâlcea and these are the results from the mobile internet offered by Vodafone1:
|Download indoor (Mbps)||Download indoor (Mbps)||Ping indoor (ms)|
Our results are comparable with the data from netograf.ro. Keep in mind: We did the indoor test at ten o’clock in the evening on a Friday evening to find out how the infrastructure holds up at this time and day when a lot of people are using their mobile internet.
Also, do some tests with public torrents or HTTP/FTP downloads.
Another thing to consider: Don’t ever only trust a speed test done through a website. As you can see in the BitTorrent test above, we did get a higher speed of around 26 Megabits per second (Mbps) — and that connected to a MacBook Pro 13″ Late 2016 through Wi-Fi at midnight on a Monday.
We did another test the following day: This time at eight o’clock in the morning through a HTTP download. We downloaded an ISO file of Ubuntu 16.04 and measured a download speed of four megabytes per second, which equates to 32 Megabits per second.
Picking a good prepaid option
Picking up a prepaid card in Romania is as easy as it gets: You walk up to one of the many shops from Vodafone, Telekom or Orange and ask for a prepaid card. They usually sell them with starter credit (around five Euros). Be aware: The sellers usually ask you to show some form of identification (ID, passport).
As a rule of thumb: Before buying a prepaid card, always take a look at the website of the mobile phone operator (although it is written in Romanian) and try to find the most recent offers. Or: Go to a shop and ask them for the newest offers. Tell them that you are mostly interested in data (MB).
We both picked Vodafone while we were in Romania — for a simple reason: They have pretty good prepaid options that give you a lot of data. We picked Oferta 7 which gives you (February 2017):
- unlimited minutes/SMS in Vodafone
- 2,000 whatever you want (national minutes/MB/national SMS)
- 5,000 MB mobile internet
- 200 minutes to UE mobile numbers
On top of that, you get more megabytes depending on what kind of offers are currently active. You can get another 1,500 megabytes if you sign up for a free Vodafone account and activate the option Bonus 1500 MB. At the end of 2016, Vodafone gave us 10,000 MB for free to use for 90 days and you could gift 2 × 5,000 MB to friends using Vodafone (or your partner).
Another cool thing about the Vodafone prepaid card is the option Vorbeşti, Net Primeşti, which means: Talk and you get megabytes for mobile internet. You get:
- 10 MB/minute when you get a call from someone using a non-Vodafone number
- 1 MB/minute when you get a call from someone using a Vodafone number
- 1 MB/minute when you call somebody (regardless of phone number)
Besides Oferta 7, there are a lot of more expensive prepaid options that we didn’t need, but you should check them out. Starting with Oferta 10, you can call people in Italy and Spain for free (if they are on the Vodafone network); you also get two months of HBO Go.
Be aware: All prepaid options are only valid for 28 days (four weeks); only Oferta 7 lasts five weeks (35 days) — this was another reason why we chose it.
Orange & Telekom
Even though we picked Vodafone, do check out Orange and Telekom as they also have decent offers.
With Orange, for eight Euros you get:
- unlimited minutes/SMS in the Orange network
- 2,000 minutes for national/international landlines or SMS; 300 minutes/SMS can be used to call people on the mobile phone in the UE
- 4,000 MB of data
- another 8,000 MB as a bonus
For every Euro spent you get 1,000 megabytes worth of data as a bonus.
When we stayed in Romania, Telekom didn’t have any great offers for their prepaid cards. You had to pay ten Euros per month to get six gigabytes of data traffic (prepaid option: Internet Nelimitat L+). Recharging your card with ten Euros does get you a bonus worth 200 MB (available for 48 hours) and for every automatic activation of your prepaid offer, you get ten percent more data.
We didn’t mention Digi because this mobile phone operator doesn’t have a good, nationwide coverage like the big three. You should still check out what the company has to offer if you go somewhere where they do have coverage (bigger cities mostly).
The most interesting offer is Dinerovich, which gives you:
- unlimited calls/SMS in Digi network
- 400 national minutes
- 6,000 MB traffic
You can also buy 1,000 megabytes for one Euro. But: Those prices are without VAT, so please add another 19 percent (as of 2017). The total price for the prepaid option Dinerovich with another gigabyte of data would be 5,95 Euros.
Check maps for data coverage
As mentioned earlier in the part about Digi: Before picking a mobile phone operator, check out maps with the coverage to make sure that you get a good signal:
- Digi service coverage map2
- Vodafone service coverage map
- Orange service coverage map3
- Telekom service coverage map4
Telekom is the only provider who has a different coverage between prepaid and contract users. The latter enjoy a much bigger coverage that spans over huge areas of Romania. If you stay for a year or two in Romania, signing a contract with them might be a good idea.
Using mobile internet on your laptop
At this point you might ask: Wait, why are you buying prepaid cards for mobile phones? A simple reason: We tethered them to our MacBooks.
Pretty much any modern smartphone is able to share its mobile internet connection and create a hotspot. Connect to that hot spot with your laptop and you have functioning mobile internet — wherever you are.
The alternative: You can buy mobile internet sticks that will eradicate the need for a smartphone, but you will have to carry another device with you.
Getting the most of your prepaid data plan
Having thousands of megabytes won’t be enough when you consume hundreds of them a day, maybe even not realising doing so. That is why you need to limit your surfing habits, either by your sheer willpower or with apps. Try to avoid websites like Facebook and 9GAG if you want to stay online for as much as possible.
Article image: Gilles Lambert | Unsplash