Posts Tagged ‘telco’

Special data plans provide a mountain to climb for startups

Via NYT: Days Are Numbered for Unlimited Mobile Data Plans

In Indonesia, nearly a third of the population is younger than 15 years old. So Telkomsel, the leading mobile operator in the country, offers a data plan called FlexiChatting for customers who want to do just one thing: gain access to and update Twitter and Facebook accounts on their cellphones.

Once more of this starts happening, we’re looking at inspecting packets. Some sites are more free than others. Consumers will love this because they save money and access services that they believe are important to them: Facebook & Twitter.

However this stifles innovation. How will the next Twitter or Facebook start? The startups that are coming to disrupt will be the underdog and will only be available to data rich folk; not the average joe.

Demographics play a role in this prepaid service tax pushback

I tweeted yesterday: Why are prepaid users any different from postpaid users when it comes to GST? Demographics.

People are up in arms, and the youth division of the incumbent and opposition political parties seem to think this is bad. Postpaid users have been paying the 6% tax since 2011, thanks to Budget 2011 from the Najib government.

According to Bernama, telcos have been absorbing the tax for prepaid users since 1998. As all these telcos are public listed, why are the shareholders suffering? Keep in mind that several telcos are giving away 50-80% of profits in dividends for stockholders.

Skmm gov my link file facts figures stats pdf handphonesurvey05booklet pdfI figured it must be something to do with demographics. The latest study by SKMM is dated from 2005. Its a most interesting read. I’m willing to believe these stats don’t vary much in 2011…

  • Malays have 53.9% share of handphone users, followed by the Chinese at 32.4%, the Bumiputra (Sabah & Sarawak) at 6.5% and the Indians at 6.3%.
  • Prepaid subscribers are 80.4% of the demographics, with 19.6% being postpaid.
  • In 2005, ages 15-19: 11.5%, 20-24: 20.9%, 25-29: 16.2%.

Guess who’s voting in the next election? Guess who’s having the loudest voice? I see this as akin to having a tax for motor vehicles on the road, but not having one for the basic motorcycles.

Najib (“So I hope it can be reviewed to reduce the burden of the rakyat who are now facing hikes in food prices” via Malaysiakini)and Khairy suddenly cares for the rakyat. They want a complete GST implementation (to ensure that it “broadens the government’s revenue base”) but for your non-essential mobile phone, they want it to be GST-free? Tsk tsk.

Quick Update: DiGi’s annual report 2010 states that 7.3 million subscribers are prepaid users, with only 1.4 million postpaid users. Maxis annual report 2010 states that there are 10.69 million prepaid users versus 2.67 million postpaid users. Interesting ratios, but since they’re not the government, they don’t give you racial demographics :-)

DiGi’s awesome customer service

People are always in shock & awe when they find out that DiGi, one of the largest three telcos in Malaysia, had an employee that went out of their way to help me solve a problem in February 2011. So I naturally wrote to their CEO, Henrik Clausen, on Charlie’s can-do attitude. This was sent on 22 February 2011 14:35:10 GMT+08:00. I’m publishing it here so I don’t have to retell the story at bars, meetups, etc.

Dear Henrik,

As I am about to get on the same weekly call that I got disconnected from last week, I figured now is the best time to write a quick can-do note for one of your employees who went out of their way to solve my problem – Charlie Chia.

A little backstory. I’ve been a DiGi customer since March 2009, when MNP was enabled. It seemed time to become an Enterprise customer, so that was what I decided on the 10th or 11th of February 2011. My DiGi assigned provider told me that the numbers that were to be ported in would need new SIM cards but the current DiGi numbers should be fine.

On February 14, he was rather frantic that the DiGi SIMs also needed to be changed, but there was no way he could pass me the SIM cards then. On February 15 at about 4.30pm while I was on a conference call, my line went dead it just said “emergency calls only”. It was a public holiday of some sort, but I work most times when I’m in the country (I’m sure you understand running a business is tough and requires commitment).

I tweeted at about 5pm, thinking nothing of it. The @DiGi_Telco account seemed to also be on vacation. But what happened later was what was most amazing. Twitter user @CharlieChia told me that he will solve this problem for me, and by about 10.15pm or so, he brought the SIM card to me at Royal Oak in Jaya One, where I was wrapping up my second last meeting for the night.

Now that is service. And a total Can-Do for Charlie Chia

On the morning of the 16th February, I received all the other SIM cards for my accounts. All is well. We’re happy DiGI Enterprise customers now

And I am your loyal evangelist, because I cherish good service, and I ensure it is rewarded

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.