Posts Tagged ‘maxis’

On the mobile data business, and iPhones

It always makes me smile when I see headlines like this: iPhone can boost mobile data business: Maxis. Lets decompose the article. (And yes, the answer is still that you shouldn’t buy a Maxis iPhone 3G.)

“We are seeing exponential potential in mobile data growth. With the launch of iPhone, I think it will strengthen Maxis’ competitiveness,” chief marketing officer Matthew Willsher said in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

What it means: Lots of people like mobile data. New phones practically demand it, otherwise you might as well buy a cheap as chips phone, that only makes and receives phone calls, and has a non-colour screen. The chief marketing officer continues to say that the iPhone will “strengthen Maxis’ competitiveness”, which means that they will get more mobile data subscribers yes. But they will all complain at the lacking quality of service. Its fine and dandy that there is a 3.5G network, but if each cell can only take a certain capacity (in terms of bandwidth), what happens in areas where things are oversubscribed?

So far, more than 1,000 units of iPhones have been booked and Willsher said the initial booking numbers have “exceeded expectations”. However, the company did not want to reveal its actual booking numbers.

What it means: There are over a thousand idiots (some tell me its mostly Maxis staff and partners, since Maxis provides hefty staff discounts) who purchased the phone. This after the announcement that there is to be an iPhone OS 3 sometime really soon, and the heavy, mostly accurate speculation that there will be a new iPhone coming out sometime in June. It also seems that Caller ID doesn’t work out of the box and will require Maxis to update the software themselves (how true is this, I have no idea). But the chief marketing officer is right, 1,000 units being booked and snapped up, really does exceed expectations — I expected Malaysians to be a lot that valued their money a lot more.

Industry sources revealed that Maxis may have ordered as many as 150,000 units of iPhone 3G, as part of the conditions to bring the phone into the country. Willsher also declined to comment on this.

What it means: Wow. 150,000 units of a product that is to become obsolete within the next few months? Especially noting that it may not be exclusive to Maxis?

What’s the appeal of the iPhone? The AppStore. The iTunes Music Store. Not being able to have the music store seems like a big boo-boo towards Apple/Maxis.

And just in case you made it this far, read Jeff Ooi’s rather satirical piece Cut Maxis from broadband, please! When it works, its usually a breeze — when it doesn’t, its mighty annoying. Sadly, its usually not working… i.e. probably lacking capacity.

So Maxis’ mobile data business will be boosted – chances are lots of people are locked in for a year or two, and even if the service sucks, paying the penalty of quitting early, will probably derail most folk. Let’s see how they flog off the remaining 149,000 units in the next few months ;-)
(and no, no amount of advertising on blogs [I'm looking at you Nuffnang], and getting funny man Kenny Sia to write about it will help – read the comments, it seems at least his readers are smart!)

Mobile Number Portability and the switch to DiGi

The one telco that I have never had the pleasure of dealing with yet, is DiGi. I’ve heard good things about them, and was slowly tiring of my Maxis subscription (a SIM card that I’ve held for over eight years, running mostly idle when I wasn’t living in the country).

So on Saturday, at about 8pm, I walked into the DiGi store in Pavilion and made the switch. I listed what was important to me:

  • My credit limit – I have a pretty high one, because I travel a lot
  • A reliable network, for both voice and data
  • Automatic international roaming turned on immediately
  • Guaranteed free calls to supplementary lines (and vice versa)
  • Never cutting my line off, if the credit limit is reached — I am after all a direct debit customer

DiGi confirmed this was all possible. I handed them my IC, and credit card (for direct debit purposes), and spent less than ten minutes at the store. The customer service rep, and the sales person were all very professional. There was a minor scare about needing a passport for international roaming, but the customer rep waived that requirement. I was told this process can take anywhere up to five days. They handed over my SIM card for safe-keeping.

Hardly thinking about it, I had an enjoyable Sunday, till I got the SMS that told me my switch is complete! What, that was about 24-hours turnaround, amazing, no?

Maxis said:

We acknowledge your request to move. Thank you for being with Maxis and we hope to serve you again in the future. For further queries, please call 1800 821 123

DiGi said:

Your line is about to be activated on the DiGi network. Please replace your SIM card with your new DiGi SIM card as soon as your current line stops working.

Being naturally impatient, I just switched SIM cards even before my current line stopped working. Upon powering up my phone, it said “DiGi” gloriously – no more “MY MAXIS”.

I made a quick call to ensure I had everything setup accurately. I did. My credit limit too was reasonable. After a flurry of service settings, everything on my phone just worked. I was on their EDGE network “diginet”, and I could make calls with no issue. I had no service interruption.

So, what do I get over at DiGi that I didn’t at Maxis?

  • For the same commitment of RM250/month, I get unlimited amounts of calls to any network, or local calls in Malaysia, including SMS messages, till it reaches RM600, and after that, I will pay 10 sen/minute or 10 sen/SMS.
  • RM66/month, unlimited EDGE. I was paying RM99/month for “unlimited” Mobile Broadband, at usually HSDPA speeds (3.5G). Note that there are caps, in theory, it was just never imposed on me.
  • RM30/month supplementary lines get unlimited calls and SMS to the principal line. With Maxis, this was capped at 15 hours (about half an hour per day!), with 1,500 SMS messages.
  • Great customer service – be it in store, or via the phone. I wish Maxis had an ounce of the customer service DiGi has.

With my limited testing, I can report that from Klang – Cheras, on the Kesas, I had one call drop; the situation was similar from Cheras – Klang on the Federal Highway – the call dropped around Glenmarie. EDGE is nowhere near as fast as 3G or 3.5G – YouTube’s mobile client ended up buffering ever 20 seconds or so, something that was completely smooth on Maxis. At events, sometimes I use Qik to live stream the event – this fails on EDGE. Uploads of between 5-15KB/s is just not enough to sustain video going up into the cloud. Coverage wise, I’m seeing it at all places I’ve been to so far – Klang, PJ, Cheras, Bangsar – so I can only assume they’re doing well in the Klang Valley (where I spend most of my time, no?). Also, video calls don’t work on the network, as its not 3G enabled, yet.

So EDGE on DiGi might be slow… but EDGE on DiGi seems darned reliable. No connection drop outs, just enjoyable working, (albeit slow) Internet. DiGi is rolling out 3G in some areas, and I don’t believe customers who have a mobile plan automatically roam to 3G there, but when time permits, I’ll check it out.

Oh, and I mentioned Mobile Number Portability (MNP) in the title, and never talked about it at all, even. That’s because it just worked. My 012-prefixed number, just works on the DiGi network. No problems, no questions, no service interruptions. So if your current telco provider is giving you the shits, consider moving! The comments I’ve received so far indicate lots of people wanting to move from Maxis to DiGi — a win, as long as they can take on new customers and keep capacity.

Watch out for my next post, probably when I get my bill, to tell you how DiGi performs, overall. Are you a recent switcher? Tell me about it.

Disclosure: I have no interests in either Maxis or DiGi. Though I am contemplating purchasing shares in the company (DiGi) in the near future, because I truly believe that the more modern and demanding Malaysian, will want greater customer service and cheaper prices, and DiGi seems to fill that niche quite well. They seem to be industry shakers in Malaysia (despite the government trying to retard them by not issuing them a 3G license when the other telcos were), while Celcom and Maxis tend to play catch-up.

Should you buy an iPhone 3G from Maxis?

The whole of the Malaysian Twitter scene is abuzz with the official launch of the iPhone 3G by Maxis in Malaysia. Now, you can see the i-Value Plan with a 12 month contract, i-Value Plan with a 24 month contract, and the more sensible Value Plus Plans with a 6 month contract. Such is life, where Maxis released some data, then pulled the main page, as pre-orders are meant to close by midnight, on the 12th of March.

Should one buy an iPhone 3G today?
Barring the prices, and the plans, should one get an iPhone 3G? If you’ve been waiting and lusting for it, there’s a chance you’ll jump to the pre-order. If you’re on a disposable income, there’s a chance you’ll jump to the pre-order. But what about the rest of us, that actually work hard for our money? Is the iPhone 3G worth it?

First up, know that this current iPhone 3G model was released in mid-year 2008. Apple has an uncanny mechanism for refreshing their hardware, at least once every year, and rumours will always exist, stating that the next refresh will come in June/July 2009. In fact, this isn’t even hearsay – check out what the Mac Buyers Guide for the iPhone says.

Also, remember the current iPhone 3G has limitations, namely a horrible camera, the lack of MMS (meaning Maxis can’t spam you as much, so it might work out to be a bonus), and no video calls. Don’t forget, as a Malaysian, you will have access to the iTunes AppStore to buy apps, but there is currently, no iTunes Music Store.

Then, you should think about support. If your Nokia fails today, you can take it to many authorised dealers, or to Nokia themselves. While Apple has an online store, they only have Apple Premium Authorised Resellers in Malaysia today. This means, that getting simple things done, can take a week or two, in terms of turnaround time. Can you live without a phone for that long?

In conclusion, knowing that the iPhone 3G is probably ready for an update in about 3-4 months, has got deficiencies, and you’re going to be finding it more difficult to get support, if you’re getting one from Maxis, you might consider their 6-month contract, if you like to live on the edge.

Should one buy an iPhone 3G today, from Maxis?
Looking at their rate plans, this is a tough question.

A 12-month contract costs anywhere between RM100-RM375, in where you buy the iPhone 3G 8GB for anywhere between RM1900-RM1080, or the iPhone 3G 16GB for anywhere between RM2290-RM1470. Know that your total commitment ranges from RM1200 – RM4500, not including the cost of the phone. Data isn’t unlimited – you’re going from 500MB-3GB, and you are billed on “minutes” instead of calling blocks (so 333-2,500 minutes per month).

If you’re crazy enough to stretch this out to 24-months (that’s two years people), suddenly the 8GB model comes down to RM1,510-RM0 (yes, a free phone) or the 16GB model comes down to RM1890-RM260. Nothing in the plan changes, per se, except the term of your contract, so your commitment level now becomes RM2400 – RM9000 over 2 years.

Note that these sneaky buggers also ask you to pay an “advance deposit” to ensure you are a Maxis customer for a while.

Also, it looks like if you need more data, you have to shell out the tiny sum of RM99/month. On an iPhone, you tend to need more data. Because with the lack of MMS, getting things out of your phone is just an “e-mail message away” — that becomes the new MMS.

Today, I am already on a plan with Maxis. The Value Plus 80, which I always think I might increase to 150 or 250 even. Maxis plans to continue that, for folk with deeper pockets, with their Value Plus plans. Why deeper pockets? Because the 8GB model costs RM2,540 and the 16GB one costs RM2,960. And you get a meagre 500MB of data free, so you’ll definitely be getting the RM99 unlimited data plan.

Now, back in January, I wrote about price comparisons and where to buy an iPhone 3G in Malaysia. RM2,899 (8GB) and RM3,099 (16GB), unlocked, from iWorld. Today, I moseyed over there to see them having a “spring sale”, and it now costs a mere RM2,999 for a 16GB model, completely unlocked. Sure, you’re worried about warranties, but you’re not much better off, from buying it from Maxis.

Compare that: RM2,999 vs RMRM2,960. RM39 is the difference, you save with Maxis. But the grief of going to the Maxis store, parking there, dealing with not-so-clever support “professionals”. No contracts. Completely unlocked phone. Delivered to your house, the next morning. I’d pick iWorld.

In conclusion, is it wise to get on a Maxis plan? Probably not. They’re fleecing you, the customer. If you’re going to pay so much for the phone, you shouldn’t be locked into such an expensive contract. You should be free to move over to DiGi when they launch better services.

As a Maxis customer, know that their 3G data service quality is questionable. Also know that their customer service is lacking.

Note that you can also get units like the ones from iWorld, completely unlocked and available for you, around Low Yat, for a few hundred ringgit cheaper. I’m just stating my experience with them, that’s all.

Anything else?
Well, its unclear if the Maxis iPhone 3G units are completely unlocked, or if they’re SIM locked to Maxis for the period of the contract.

With MNP in place, and competition rife, I’m surprised Apple Malaysia didn’t pull a stunt like what they did in Hong Kong – sell completely unlocked units, and let the people choose.

Apple is planning an event towards the end of March, that may announce some changes to the iTunes Store, which may mean that Malaysians get to buy music, and other content. This is how Apple makes residual income from the sale of an iPhone — they don’t really care for the carrier profits, now do they?

I don’t forsee many Malaysian’s shelling out cash for apps in the AppStore, with the way the USD-MYR rates are going. They’ll use it, but they’ll get the free apps. I can’t blame them. Apple doesn’t release sales metrics for their AppStore by region, but if they did, we could come up with a better analysis.

In “high society” (middle class and above, I use the term loosely), seeing an iPhone is very common. Whether its the older model, or the 3G model, its almost everywhere. So again, it depends on the “disposability” of your income.

So, would you buy an iPhone 3G in Malaysia, from Maxis?

Update: Maxis has pulled down details of their rate plans. Its OK, Twitter points me to this link, in where you can see the rate plans for yourself.
Update 2: Apparently, according to a LowYat.Net forum moderator @andrewkjs, they had a post with the pricing and were given a call by the friendly lawyers at Maxis, and given a takedown notice. Tsk tsk. IANAL, but you don’t need to comply with phone requests. Written emails are much better – you can publish them too :-) Also, another site, that is carrying some iPhone information is MyMacBUZZ, run by my friend @blogjunkie, including things like internal discounts, and more.
Update 3: An enterprising fellow has posted a spreadsheet analysing the iPhone pricing, and how much the total cost of ownership really is (a little further down, he talks about Celcom/DiGi and more… so I haven’t verified the numbers, per se, YMMV). Conclusion? Malaysians get a raw deal in comparison to Hong Kong or Singapore (heck, even New Zealand, from what I gather).
Update 4: Its a little after 3pm, and the site seems to be back up. Book until 17th March 2009, and you’ll get invited to the launch held at the KL Convention Centre from 20-22 March 2009. I have a feeling a launch itself cannot take several days, so this event must be more “open to all”. T&C is not available, but an FAQ is. Read it! Note that Visual Voicemail will not be available, and “On launch, customers will not be able to buy content from the iTunes store.” Remember, Maxis 3G network isn’t up to scratch, so contracting and finding out it will suck at home, is going to be a big deal for many. I predict more complaints written to SKMM/MCMC about this at some stage, if the uptake is great.
Maxis - iPhone

Maxis Broadband: RM99 mobile unltimited or RM143 Maxis Broadband?

The fun with Maxis Broadband continues. I last wrote about the real story behind Maxis Broadband, which apparently is quite a favourite amongst Google searches. Today, @hantu asks on Twitter: $99 mobile unlimited or $138 maxis broadband?.

Lets delve into this a little deeper. I have the RM99 mobile unlimited connection, so that my E71 can surf the Internet. It allows me to check and send email on the go, post updates to Twitter, perform quick Google searches, and when I’m waiting for someone, read my Google Reader feeds. I estimate I use about 150MB or so per month, and this will probably grow in size, as I have JoikuSpot installed, and can share it with my iPod Touch. If I had an iPhone (and used it), I can imagine my data usage being a lot higher.

I’ve also had a Maxis Broadband SIM card, that I pay RM143 per month for. No, its not RM138, because they decided to send me a bill, which costs RM5/month. Nothing I do, can stop me from receiving said paper bill (not even threatening to stop their services). Do I use the Mobile Broadband services? Yes I do – I average 2GB per month, sometimes more, depending on where I choose to work for majority of the time.

In my head, I’ve been thinking, with the economy being the way it is: why am I paying RM143 and RM99 for mobile data? I noticed Maxis had a “Multi-SIM” service, in where you pay RM15/month, and you get a second SIM for your number. I thought that this was the way out – get a second SIM for my primary number, pay an extra RM15 and share the 3G connection (the second SIM to be placed in my broadband modem, a Huawei E220).

To my dismay, I visited the Maxis store and was told I couldn’t do this. If I wanted a second SIM, my services don’t extend to it. That means, I have to pay RM15 + RM10 + RM99 for the second SIM. Could I have found two idiots at the Maxis Centre in Klang – quite possibly – I think her name was Lina, and her supervisor was no better.

Maxis has an FAQ that suggests I can get a second SIM card, and just place it in my broadband modem. Imagine, only paying RM99+15 (RM114) rather than RM242.

My only solace? I don’t pay RM143 any longer. I only pay RM118, as I have Mobile Broadband and I am a Maxis postpaid customer. If you listen to the customer service representative, you’ll realise that you’re paying RM124 per month. I however think the customer service rep, is just being a plain idiot, and this can be fixed.

Why don’t I just use JoikuSpot, or tether via Bluetooth, to my Nokia E71? Because of battery life. The last time I tethered to my Nokia E61i, I had about 2 hours of battery life, before the phone got really hot in my pants pocket, and the battery went almost flat. Not having a working phone, is of course, unacceptable, which is why I’ve gone the mobile broadband route.

So, Andy, what’s your best choice? It depends on your usage. If you’re using your phone a lot, get an unlimited data package for RM99. If you don’t need access too much, consider Bluetooth tethering, which will work OK (maybe you have to carry a phone charger around). If you need to sit in cafes a lot, or work away from your desk and proper Internet connection, consider the Mobile Broadband package, at RM143/RM138/RM118 (paper bill/no paper bill/Maxis postpaid Bolt-on program).

If I ever get this multi-SIM bullshit figured out, I’ll be sure to write about it, and let you all save money. If any other provider (Celcom, DiGi, U mobile) offer it, don’t hesitate to leave a comment behind.

The real story behind Maxis Broadband

The whole Maxis Broadband advertising spiel is hitting up again in the Malaysian blogosphere, and I think its time I write about their broadband service a little more.

Point of observation: lots of the blogosphere, probably get paid [not necessarily monetarily] to write reviews, which are generally crap because they never actually use the service. They should disclose this payment/affiliation, but they usually don’t, which is terribly sad. Anyway, ignore the hyperbole – I’ll tell you about Maxis Broadband from the trenches.

I’ve been using the service for what must be about six months now (using a Huawei E220, on a Mac and Linux, but mostly on a Mac – since all I really carry around is my Air). I only hopped on Maxis, because everyone that was a Celcom customer told me that dialup was better than Celcom’s 3G/HSDPA.

The good
It works really well in both my homes, in either Petaling Jaya or Klang. This is of course, not the prime location I would like to use the broadband modem – I have DSL coming through the houses, and its always more reliable than a HSDPA connection.

It works really well in Mont Kiara. The Coffee Bean there, has got fabulous coverage. In fact, so does SOMO.

Where my vet is located in Brickfields, Maxis Broadband shines – 364KB/s. Also, in Cyberjaya, I hopped on WCDMA while I was at MMU… not fast, not slow, but just about usable ;-)

The bad
Uploading to Flickr fails. Anything large (you know, that comes out of even an 8MP digital camera) will fail to upload.

I was at UITM (Shah Alam) not long ago, and the coverage was an epic fail. Nearby the Maxis headquarters (OK, I was at the Sun office in KL), Maxis gave me some amazing ping times – 10761.587 ms! But maybe it was switching cells, far too often?

I was in Cheras (nearby Leisure Mall) not long ago, and was sitting in my car, trying to surf the Internet. Here, you’ll notice that the HSDPA network is weak – it moves to EDGE, most of the time. The Internet is also, virtually unusable.

I took a bus to Singapore a month back. Trying to use it on the North-South Expressway, was not happening. It would disconnect so frequently, it made more sense to sleep. I’ve been told however, that Celcom works a charm on the North-South Expressway. Then again, not exactly a common use case for me.

I have a box sitting in the Jaring IDC. Transfers (ssh -C) top out at about 20KB/s. Ping times are around 80ms, but its just not that fast… Well at least with the WCDMA network in Mont Kiara.

Why?
I’m not slagging Maxis off for no reason… I’m trying to make you, the reader, an informed consumer, so that you don’t simply buy a service, that cannot be provided for.

In fact, I wondered how many users could blog from a single location using Maxis Broadband even. Their service coverage is probably not the best, and imagine a bunch of bloggers (Nuffnang-ers) who want to live blog… These are the camwhore crowd, et al. I’m sure they had a massively enjoyable time, wishing they were at home, with Streamyx ;-)

Motivation?
Well, it seems that Vodafone offers $0 Dell Inspiron Mini 9′s on a $70 plan, with 5GB of data transfer in Australia. I won’t be surprised if Maxis has a similar deal with Dell… A simple Google showed that Dell and Maxis are already in cahoots – RM99 x 24 months with “free” Broadband access for 6 months… more details about the promo, which means you’ll end up paying RM2,376… and assuming you like the Maxis Broadband service, you’ll end up having to fork out RM77 for the remainder of the 18 months, totalling a paltry RM1,386. Wait… RM77 is a lot cheaper than the usual RM138 per month (RM118 if you’re a Maxis postpaid subscriber). RM61 savings!?! That’s RM1,098 one can save… ridiculous. I’m tempted to get this “deal” and just ask for an extra SIM card to be tied to my account… I’m sure that can’t cost more than RM5 or RM10.

Conclusion
I even had other issues with them… upon signup, they said they would direct debit my credit card. It took a threat to leave the service for them to do it over the phone, in the fifth month of service. I still seem to be getting paper bills (costing me an additional RM5).

I am of course, posting this via a Maxis Broadband Internet connection :) It has allowed me to not pay Airzed for Wifi, and if it worked a little better, everywhere else, I’d be mostly happy with it.

What are your experiences with Maxis Broadband?

Maxis on the anti-SMS-spam bandwagon

It was reported recently that Maxis (my current mobile provider of choice), will offer an anti-spam service for cellphones.

Once you get MessagePlus, which costs RM1 per month, you can start blocking spam. Where do I get most of my spam from? Maxis information services!

So, while this magical service is the first in the world, is this just because Malaysia lacks an extension to the Do Not Call Register?

MessagePlus also includes an auto-reply feature for SMS messages. Think of this like vacation mail, in traditional e-mail. Vacation mail that costs money – you’re charged on a per SMS basis, ranging from between 5-15 sen per message.

It seems Maxis has a new business development manager, Nikolai Dobberstein. And the idea of sending spam, and charging folk to stop receiving the spam, seems like its just gold! Excellent idea for business development, I’m sure.

Me? I’ll live with the spam. And when mobile number portability shows up (find link), I might move to another sensible provider.

A useful statistic? Malaysia’s SMS use is ranked at sixth in the world, for total SMS volume.


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