If you’re anything like me, getting a decent SIM card with a data plan is probably among your top priorities when moving to a new country.
Luckily, Tbilisi makes this both easy and cheap. SIM cards with generous data allowance are readily available and will take you mere minutes to get.
But it helps to know the market a bit to be able to make an informed decision.
The Big Three
Silknet and Magti are the larger two with, according to Tabula.ge, just shy of 2 million subscribers each, with Beeline jogging behind with some 1.2 million.
So how do we choose between the three?
With over 98% of the populated territory in Georgia having mobile coverage, the reach of the network won’t be a concern. That’s especially so if you live in Tbilisi, where all three will give you 4G coverage in all corners of the city.
Note that Magti numbers do seem to get more SMS spam than Geocell and Beeline, but you can opt out by calling *182#.
Ask the locals, and they’ll tell you their choice depends mostly on which network their friends and family use. And that makes sense. Most, if not all, of the operators, allow free or very cheap calls within the bounds of the same network. So if you have any friends that you’ll be calling or texting a lot, consider signing up with the same operator.
But most of the people reading this, I’m guessing, won’t have any existing friends or family or, at the very least, aren’t in the habit of spending hours on end on the phone with them 🙂
Which brings us to price.
The Price Comparison
The first thing to note (and to try to avoid) is tourist packages.
All three operators have these, and while they’re often great deals, it’s worth noting that most of these SIM cards expire in anywhere from a week to a month, so they don’t work for someone relocating here.
But even with the tourist packages out of the way, you have plenty of options. Everyone’s needs will be different, but for this article, I’m going to assume that you’ll want some local minutes & text, around 5 GB in monthly data allowance and a SIM-only package. I will also assume that you prefer to pay monthly, rather than weekly, if it means a better price.
With these requirements, here’s where we stand:
As you can see, the prices don’t differ a whole lot and are, universally, very affordable.
Personally, I’m with Geocell, simply because that’s the first shop that I walked came across. Elora is with Magti, though, and she’s equally happy.
Ultimately, it will come down to your preference and how you can make the packages suit your needs.
International Calls & Roaming
International pricing is an area where the offerings of the three operators differ a great deal.
Calls to the US, for instance, cost GEL 0.70 a minute at Geocell, GEL 0.35 at Magti, and GEL 0.05 at Beeline – HUGE difference.
But is Beeline then the best option for international calls altogether? Not necessarily, as other countries will have different pricing.
And to make matters even more complicated, there are also “package deals” that one can buy. My Geocell package, for instance, allows me 60 free minutes per month to US numbers.
If that’s not enough, things get even more complicated with roaming. The roaming prices, especially those of data roaming, are all over the place. There are lots of packages to choose between, and a lot will depend on where you’ll roam, for how long, and how much data you will need.
With that in mind, my best suggestion for those who are planning to use roaming a lot is to check out the websites of the operators and compare the available packages.
But for the rest of you, I hope this write-up helped you make a decision and choose the operator that’s best for you.