Mobile network & Internet connectivity in Leh‑Ladakh
Looks like you’re planning a trip to Ladakh this time and searching for useful and practical info, Since you’re here to know more about the Internet and Mobile Network connectivity in Ladakh, lets not waste our time and start digging in.
You need to keep in mind that mobile network and Internet connectivity are fairly limited in this region.
Indeed, when it comes to communication in Ladakh, it is a bit tricky… You need to be ready for long periods without any mobile phone connectivity and Internet access, especially when you travel to remote areas of Ladakh.
Given below are some tips to stay connected with your families and friends during your trip in Ladakh.
Mobile phone networks & Coverage
Which SIM cards work in Ladakh?
Ladakh shares its border with two countries: China on the east and Pakistan on the west. Due to its strategic location, the government does not allow prepaid SIM cards from outside Ladakh to work in the region. for example if you live in Delhi and you have prepaid sim card that will not work here nor in J&K, but if have the Postpaid sim card of any city/place of India then it will work here.
Only postpaid Indian SIM cards work in Ladakh
Unlike other states of the country, you cannot rely on your daily cell phone connectivity unless it is a postpaid connection. Your own prepaid SIM card will not work in Ladakh.
oreign SIM cards don’t work in Ladakh
Foreign SIM cards with international roaming can be used in other states of India but not in Ladakh.
Buy a local prepaid SIM card
If you don’t have an Indian postpaid connection, you will have to buy a local prepaid SIM card from the operator’s office in Leh market. Requirements for buying a local prepaid SIM card often change and it can be quite complicated. Each operator has slightly different requirements.
To get a local Airtel or BSNL prepaid SIM card, you will need to provide a copy of your passport and visa (in case you are a foreigner) or an identity proof and a proof of address (if you are an Indian). Sometimes, a local address proof (within Ladakh) is also required. In that case, it will be of great help if you know someone local closely who can provide you with a local address proof, like a copy of his/her voter ID card.
Best mobile networks in Ladakh
- If you ask “which is the best mobile network operator in Ladakh?” we would answer BSNL. Indeed, BSNL is the most reliable mobile phone service provider in Ladakh and it has the widest coverage in the region, from the whole area of Leh town, to Nubra valley, Zanskar, Drass, Kargil, Changthang and Sham region. You might not get reception at some spots en route, but most of the time reception will be there.
- Internet will work fine in the Leh area but the further you go the weaker will be the data speed and at some point it might stop working at all.
- Airtel is the best mobile network operator to be used in the main town of Leh and adjoining areas. It provides high-speed 4G Internet connectivity but stands second in terms of coverage.
- In some areas you might receive a full 4G connection whereas in some other locations you might not have a reception at all. Well, it depends on your exact geographical position.
- In areas like Hunder, Diskit, or some spots on the Leh-Kargil road, you might get a full 2G/3G reception.
- Jio was introduced in Ladakh in 2018. The feedback so far has been good.
- In the main town of Leh and neighbouring areas, you will get a full 4G coverage with high-speed Internet connection.
- Even in Nubra valley you will get 4G connection up to Diskit and Hunder.
Mobile network coverage in Ladakh
Mobile network in Nubra valley
- Your visit to Nubra valley will begin from Khardung La pass. At the base of the pass you will only get BSNL reception, but at the top you will get both Airtel and BSNL networks.
- In Diskit and Hunder, you will get 2G Airtel connection at some spots and 3G/4G Jio network till Hunder.
- In the Turtuk area only BSNL will work, but it will be painfully slow and sometimes it might not work at all.
Mobile network at Pangong lake
- If you are travelling to Pangong lake from Kharu and Tangse route, you will have on and off reception. Till Kharu you will have 4G Airtel and 3G/2G BSNL connection both. After that you will receive only BSNL network. Between Chang La pass and Tangse, there will be no network. At Tangse, BSNL network is available.
- If you are driving to Pangong lake from Nubra valley via Shayok, you will not have any network coverage en route.
- At Pangong lake, it is usually possible to catch the mobile phone network in the morning hours at some spots. The reception might not be good for call but you can leave text messages.
Mobile network at Tso Moriri lake
- If you are travelling to Tso Moriri lake from Leh, you will get reception till Upshi. After that you will get on and off coverage till Chumathang. Chumathang is the nearest place to the lake where you will get reception.
- When you reach Tso Moriri lake, there will be no reception. Even Korzok village is out of network coverage area.
- If you are going to Tso Moriri lake from Pangong via the Tsaga La route, there is no connectivity until you reach Hanle area. You might get reception in Hanle but it will be very limited and slow. However you will manage to make a phone call or leave a text message.
Mobile network in Sham
- Almost the entire touristic area of Sham has a good network coverage.
- You will get 3G Airtel connection in the west part of the Indus valley between Leh and Likir.
- After Likir, in the direction of Lamayuru, BSNL network is available. You may lose the network at some spots but overall there will be network most of the time with BSNL having the highest chances.
Mobile network on the Leh-Manali road
- The Leh-Manali highway has almost no network coverage at all.
- From Leh, you will get reception until Upshi.
- For the next 280 km, you won’t get any network until you reach Jispa area. In Jispa, you may get reception but it will be slow and not reliable. BSNL has the highest chances of working in this area.
- From Jispa, you will lose the network again and your phone will not work until you cross Rothang La pass.
- You will need to inform your loved ones whenever you get reception in the above mentioned areas because it is a long route and they might get worried.
Mobile network on the Leh-Srinagar road
- The first half of the Leh-Srinagar highway from Leh to Kargil has a good mobile phone network coverage.
- From Kargil to Srinagar, there many zones without network but BSNL and Airtel users will get reception at Sonamarg and Drass, but the connectivity can be uncertain.
Satellite phone for emergency
Many of the far flung areas and remote villages of Ladakh have a Digital Satellite Public Telephone, commonly known amongst the locals as DSPT. These phones are provided by the government in the rural areas which are not connected to the normal phone network to mitigate the problems related to communication and phone connectivity in Ladakh. DSPT phones can be used in case of emergency but not for personal use. The charge might be around ₹ 2/minute.
Mobile satellite phones are strictly forbidden in Ladakh due to security reasons. Ladakh is one of the most militarized regions in India due to its geographical proximity with China and Pakistan. If you own a mobile satellite phone, you must keep it at home, don’t bring it with you to Ladakh.
Mobile phone networks & Coverage
Other than your own data connection, you can always stay connected to Internet through Wi-Fi available in hotels and guesthouses where you are staying or even in restaurants. Today almost all the hotels, restaurants and guesthouses have a Wi-Fi connection available for their guests. In summer, during the peak tourist season, the connection can be slow because of multiple users.
You can also use WhatsApp calls and Skype calls to stay connected with friends and family as soon as you get an Internet access during your trip. Even when the connection is very slow, WhatsApp messages will always work.