Amazon Kindle 3 3G International Coverage – US vs International model

In my article Amazon Kindle 3G-The Perfect Travel Companion, I talked about how useful I found my 3G Kindle while travelling overseas.  One of the comments left on that article pointed to a blog that said that Vietnam was one of the only places that the author couldn’t get any 3G signal.  This confused the heck out of me, as I had full coverage (and also full web access) from North to South for the 3 weeks I was over there. What was going on?

US Kindle 3 3G Coverage

I went to Amazon.com to look at the 3G coverage map. Huh? No 3G coverage in Vietnam? Had I slurped back too much Pho, or had the sun addled my brain, or was it just like an episode of Dallas and it was all a dream? :)

Then I remembered there’s actually two versions of the 3G Kindle , a US one that is only available in the US and uses an ATT sim card and also an International model that uses a Vodafone sim card.  Now, Australia being NOT being part of the US meant I had an international model. So I went to Amazon.co.uk and check the Vodaphone 3G coverage map there.

Intl Kindle 3 3G Coverage

So you can see while the US (ATT) Kindle 3 offers ZERO 3G coverage in Vietnam, the International version (Voda) gives almost full 3G coverage. The same applies for Cambodia.

US Kindle 3 3G Coverage

Intl Kindle 3 3G Coverage

Tasmania US v Intl 3G Coverage

For interest sake I then had a look at Australian coverage.  I live in Tasmania, that little island just underneath Victoria, but couldn’t get my screenshot to include in the map above, so I added separately. (We hate being left off the map of Australia :)).  You can see  that there’s dramatically different coverage between the International and the US Kindle 3 3G . Looking at the maps above, in reality I’d be much better off with a US Kindle 3 3G than the International model. Vodafone has notoriously bad coverage in Australia and I can tell from the ATT coverage that they’re partnering on the Telstra 3G network. It’s a bit ironic that a US Kindle would give me better coverage than an “International” version.  But of course if I had a US model, I’d have NO coverage while in Vietnam.

A quick comparison of the maps shows some obvious areas where coverage is different, Morocco (I), Namibia(I), Ghana(I), Belarus(I), Malawi(I),Ecuador(U), Tanzania(U) and Bolivia(U) amongst others, and the degree of difference in coverage varies.

I’m guessing that this “anomoly”  has to do with the partners that the respective Telcos have in the different countries. The long and short, if you’re intending to use your Kindle while travelling, it’s worth checking out if the US or International will give you the best coverage in the countries that you’re going to visit. Be aware though that it’s not possible to get a US Kindle 3G directly from Amazon internationally and conversely an International Kindle 3G in the US, but there are ways of doing it. :)

Happy travelling :)

Posted in: Articles, eBook Readers, Travel Gear

17 comments… add one

  • Michael February 5, 2012, 12:34 am

    Wow I’m glad I didn’t bother paying the extra for a 3G kindle when I bought mine in Australia. I’ve got the wifi model and I can hang it off my iPhone or another 3G – wifi router if need be. I guess the US kindle is roaming to Telstra which is the only network to use outside of capital cities in Australia.

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  • Michael February 15, 2012, 10:57 am

    The Kindle 3G only supports 3G (WCDMA) on 850/1900/2100 MHz. With that you’re perfectly settled in the US, but some other countries (especially EU-based) are deploying 3G networks on 900 MHz. Same goes for Australia which has 3G on 850, 900 and 2100 MHz.
    This is to consider additionally to the different roaming agreements (AT&T vs. Voda UK). In Vietnam it seems only Vodafone has an agreement with Viettel Corporation (Viettel) which also operate on 3G 2100 (additionally to GSM 900/1800), whereas AT&T has no roaming agreement in Vietnam.

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  • waldo March 19, 2012, 2:39 pm

    Are your kindle keyboard 3g’s recently purchased? I can’t tell if what they’re selling as the kindle keyboard 3g since the release of the kindle touch still gets free international 3g, or if it is limited to the amazon marketplace now.

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  • Ian Lim March 19, 2012, 3:56 pm

    @Waldo – my Kindle Keyboard 3G was replaced by Amazon beginning of January due to a fault and still has full internet access. My understanding is that the Keyboard 3G still has full internet access (in selected countries) however the Touch 3G only has access to the market (in supported countries). Obviously you get wifi support on both where ever you are.

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  • Rosy April 21, 2012, 12:29 am

    Ian you said in this review that you still have the Samsung Galaxy 7.7 and a Kindle DX; if the Kindle is as good as you say, why do you need the tablet? I’m looking for something on which to read books, collect email and do a little browsing while traveling in Europe and as I travel some budget airlines, I need to be able to put it into a pocket. Which do you think would suit my needs better please?

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  • Ian Lim April 21, 2012, 12:50 am

    @ Rosy, yes I have both an Android Tablet (currently a Lenovo ThinkPad 10.1″) and a Kindle Keyboard and yes they both travel with me.To me the two compliment each other.

    The Kindle is great for reading novels primarily. The E-Ink is very easy on the eyes, its light and portable, can easily be read in direct sunlight and the battery life can be measured in terms of months. If you read my original Kindle review you’ll note that I do mention that web browsing and email is slow and cumbersome due to the keyboard, slow refresh screen and slow 3G connectivity (though you can turn on wifi if you’re in range of a WiFi hotspot) but at a pinch for anywhere access its fine ( and free) . If I’m doing a lot of travelling for the day where weight’s an issue then I’ll just take the Kindle.

    My tablet is more about games, email, movies and web browsing, its heavier, bulkier, not good to read in direct daylight and battery life is measured in day(s). If I’m able to sit in a cafe and use their free internet then the tablet is definitely preferable for web browsing and social networking etc.

    Each has it’s own place and you’ll really have to decide which is more important to you, reading or web browsing (or buy both :) ) My reading of your post though is that you might be better off with a Kindle and then when you’re in “civilisation’ use internet cafes for the “full web experience” .

    Sorry I can’t give you a more definitive answer but in the end only you can decide which is right. :)

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  • Michaela April 21, 2012, 4:13 pm

    Hi, Ian Kim. You said, “Be aware though that it’s not possible to get a US Kindle 3G directly from Amazon internationally and conversely an International Kindle 3G in the US, but there are ways of doing it.” My question is, how do I go about obtaining an international Kindle while living in the States? Thanks

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  • Ian Lim April 22, 2012, 3:57 am

    @Michaela – it involves using a friend or family member internationally or a forwarding company that will take your order and ship it to you.

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  • Sarah May 24, 2012, 6:40 pm

    I’m confused… for me the international map shows no coverage in Cote D’Ivoire? (thinking of buying a kindle prior to travel there)

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  • Ian Lim May 24, 2012, 6:56 pm

    @Sarah – So am I, I’m sure the International covered Cote D’Ivoire when I wrote this article, (either that or I might have mixed it up with Ghana which is covered by International but not US, I’ve amended the review so as to stop confusion (at least at this point )) but then again I’m assuming that this sort of thing can be quite dynamic. Looks like you’ll have to satisfy yourself with just reading your Kindle. Sorry.

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  • Susan Craig May 27, 2012, 8:57 pm

    Hi Ian. I found this article very interesting. I have two Kindles – one I got via a friend in the US and one that was shipped directly to me in NZ for my husband. I didn’t know they were different until I realised in the weekend that my husband’s Kindle’s 3G would not work at our house. After many fraught and lengthy on line chats with (mostly unhelpful) Amazon I was made aware of the difference between the models. I wonder, which is better overall? Which will work in the most places? We are travelling to Europe soon and I see that Vodafone has good 3G coverage in Spain and Greece. (Just not at my house in New Zealand!). But how can I find out if my Kindle (the US model) will work in Europe? Which network should I be searching for? One of their on line staff told me that the US model is superior as the sim in it is stronger. Is this true do you think? SO pleased I found your article today! Cheers, Susan

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  • Ian Lim May 27, 2012, 9:09 pm

    Susan, all you can really do is look at the US and International coverage maps and see which one looks to give you the better coverage.

    I don’t have a US unit so can’t give you a comparison but in the end I suspect the hardware is the same in each Kindle and it’s just a different SIM, I think it really comes down to the partnering Telco’s coverage, NOT the hardware. I mean Vodafail coverage here in Tasmania is SHI….. but I had absolutely no issues in Vietnam :)

    A quick look indicates you should be fine with either as there doesn’t seem to be too much difference in coverage in Greece and Spain as there is in other countries.

    And their argument about a stronger sim is useless if there’s not coverage in the area you’re going to :)

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  • Ro June 6, 2012, 8:19 am

    Great post.

    Using a 3G Kindle in Vietnam and wondering why only wifi worked!

    Cheers

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  • Deafbear November 26, 2012, 7:29 am

    I haven’t decide to buy the kindle 3G yet? But I could like to ask a few questions before I buy it……I was wonder if I am on the ocean cruise that it will work on 3G or not?

    Deafbear….

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  • Ian Lim November 26, 2012, 8:02 pm

    Deafbear, it will depend on if there’s a 3G service available either on the boat itself or on nearby land and if the 3G supplier is a partner with ATT or Vodafone (depending on whether you purchase the US or International version).

    Other than that I can’t really help you sorry :(

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  • Deafbear November 27, 2012, 7:16 am

    Ian Lim,

    That’s okay. Just thought….Thank you for tell me about the kindle…..I will buy the Kindle paperwhite 3G soon.

    Good Day.

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  • Ian Lim November 27, 2012, 4:30 pm

    Deafbear, don’t forget though that the Paperwhite 3G will only give you access to the Amazon Store and Wikipedia via 3G. You will not get full carte blanche internet access. The only unit that does that is the Kindle Keyboard 3G.

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