De­ci­sions over data

Here are some things to think about when choos­ing a data plan to suit your needs.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - Sto­ries by SU­SANNA KHOO bytz@thes­tar.com.my

Mo­bile in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity has be­come such a cru­cial part of our lives that for most of us, it’s un­think­able to sub­scribe to any telco ser­vice that doesn’t pro­vide it to us by de­fault.

How­ever, in spite of a grow­ing num­ber of such data plans on the mar­ket to­day, it hasn’t got­ten any eas­ier to iden­tify which one best meets our needs.

Start­ing out

“A lot of people sus­pect that it’s ex­pen­sive to use a data plan but if you’re on the right one, it re­ally isn’t,” says Zal­man Zainal, chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer at Cel­com Ax­i­ata bhd.

He says most first time users of mo­bile in­ter­net plans tend to be afraid to com­mit to pay­ing a fixed amount ev­ery month, as they are un­cer­tain how much of it they will ac­tu­ally need.

“i think con­sumers first need to know roughly what they want to use the data for. They need to know their us­age skew. Gen­er­ally, most have an even us­age of voice and SMS ver­sus data,” Zal­man says.

in his opin­ion, first time users should start off by opt­ing for a midrange data plan.

only af­ter us­ing the plan for some time will a user be able to es­ti­mate what his or her us­age pat­tern is like, and can then ad­just ac­cord­ingly, up­grad­ing to a plan with a larger data quota if re­quired.

“The main thing here is that you shouldn’t be afraid, other­wise it’s go­ing to ham­per your mo­bile in­ter­net ex­pe­ri­ence. Just do a bit of re­search to es­ti­mate how much you need and buy a plan which is de­cent. Don’t go too low or too high,” he says.

Some users may also want to fac­tor things like the avail­abil­ity of lTe ser­vices when choos­ing be­tween plans of­fered by dif­fer­ent telco oper­a­tors, but Zal­man feels lTe is only use­ful for cer­tain kinds of mo­bile users.

“lTe will def­i­nitely make your daily data us­age more ef­fi­cient, but the dif­fer­ence in speed be­tween 3G and 4G is only no­tice­able if you are an ad­vanced data user. You’ll see a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence if you are down­load­ing a lot of files or view­ing videos. but if most of your us­age is just for chat or so­cial me­dia, you may not re­ally no­tice the dif­fer­ence,” he says.

“For reg­u­lar users, 3G net­works are suf­fi­cient and hav­ing 1Gb of data is enough. if you’re a heavy so­cial me­dia user or fre­quently stream mu­sic and videos, you’ll ba­si­cally need 2Gb and above,” says Jas­mine lee, chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer of U Mo­bile Sdn bhd. “it re­ally de­pends on what you use the data for.”

in her opin­ion, those who are aged 30 and above are usu­ally the ones who find it hard­est to de­cide on which data plan to pur­chase.

“The youth al­ready know straight away what they want. but i think those above 30 have this fear of get­ting a plan. it’s good to do a bit of re­search. Go to each op­er­a­tor’s Face­book page and see the kind of feed­back they’re get­ting,” lee says.

Give it a go

Ul­ti­mately, lee be­lieves there’s no bet­ter way of de­ter­min­ing whether a par­tic­u­lar data plan is worth

sign­ing up for than to go out and get one to try it out for yourself.

“You can do the same for any op­er­a­tor. Just buy the SIM card with the low­est cost and try it out. Go to your area and see if it’s good, and then only de­cide whether to sub­scribe (for the long term).”

Ja­son Lo, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Tune Talk Sdn Bhd holds a sim­i­lar view.

“What you should do when you buy your data plan is you should test the speed. Walk around the ar­eas where you use data the most. People of­ten don’t con­sider this,” he says.

In ad­di­tion, Ste­wart Ku­mar, head of prod­ucts at Tune Talk says con­sumers should fa­mil­iarise them­selves with their in­di­vid­ual us­age pat­terns.

“Your smart­phone tracks data us­age for each app you have. Use that as a gauge and get a plan that suits you,” he says.

How­ever, you will only be able to see a trend if you have been us­ing a smart­phone for some time.

But even first-time smart­phone buy­ers should make it a point to learn about their de­vice’s fea­tures, as this will help in pick­ing the right plan, ac­cord­ing to Praveen Ra­jan, head of In­ter­net and ser­vices for prod­uct mar­ket­ing at DiGi Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Sdn Bhd.

“Un­der­stand the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of your phone. There may be things that hap­pen in the back­ground such as soft­ware up­dates which you have to be aware of,” he says.

“If you’re a first time user, don’t com­mit to a big data plan, as you won’t be sure of your us­age pat­tern yet. Start with an en­try-level plan and buy flex­i­ble daily or weekly top ups.”

“It’s al­ways much eas­ier to up­grade. If you sub­scribe to an ex­pen­sive plan and want to down- grade, you may get pe­nalised for do­ing so.”

Mul­ti­ple choices

For those who own mul­ti­ple de­vices, Praveen of­fers sev­eral ex­am­ples to il­lus­trate how con­sumers can de­cide on what’s nec­es­sary for them or other­wise.

“If you al­ways find yourself on the go with your tablet, then I’d rec­om­mend putting a sep­a­rate SIM card in it. You wouldn’t want to use up all the (data) quota on your phone or drain its bat­tery. But it re­ally de­pends on how of­ten you are us­ing each de­vice,” Praveen says.

As an al­ter­na­tive, some con­sumers may pre­fer get­ting a WiFi mo­dem (also known as MiFi) in­stead in or­der to ac­cess the In­ter­net on sev­eral de­vices at once.

“It serves a few dif­fer­ent types of cus­tomers. For in­stance, small of­fices that may not be will­ing to spend money or lack the ca­pac­ity to in­stall a fixed broad­band line,” he says.

“Or a fam­ily with kids could use it in a car and have all the de­vices share a sin­gle con­nec­tion. It’s also great for work­ing pro­fes­sion­als who find it eas­ier not to worry about hav­ing to man­u­ally set up WiFi con­nec­tions each time they’re out.”

Those who travel fre­quently around the coun­try may want to con­sider the op­tion of car­ry­ing two SIM cards from dif­fer­ent ser­vice providers within the same de­vice.

“It’s meant for people who prob­a­bly want a backup net­work ser­vice, yet they don’t want to carry an­other de­vice,” ex­plains Ben Teh, chief sales of­fi­cer at Red One Net­work Sdn Bhd.

“Some­times there’s no guar­an­tee that your op­er­a­tor will have cov­er­age wher­ever you are so it’s al­ways good to carry an­other SIM.”

Red One’s so­lu­tion comes in the form of a tiny sticker which you can at­tach to the top of your ex­ist­ing SIM card. Known as the Ezzy2­Duo SIM, this nifty sticker en­ables you to ac­cess net­works from both your Red One SIM as well as your orig­i­nal ser­vice provider at the same time.

Other users may pre­fer the sim­plic­ity of just main­tain­ing one In­ter­net plan and shar­ing the data quota across all their de­vices. If you’re one of them, you’ll be happy to know that tel­cos such as Maxis and U Mo­bile pro­vide you with such op­tions.

For Maxis, this is known as the Share’n’Surf plan and it al­lows you to share data from your ex­ist­ing plan (2GB min­i­mum) with up to five ex­tra de­vices for a fee of RM15 per month for each additional SIM card.

Mean­while, U Mo­bile’s of­fer­ing is known as the In­ter­net Share Plan and is priced at RM68 for 3GB of data per month. It comes with two free SIM cards and you can re­quest a third one for an additional fee of RM10 per month.

Re­gard­less of what kind of data plan you may choose for your mo­bile de­vices, it is still wise to stay pru­dent when it comes to your In­ter­net con­sump­tion.

“Mo­bile data pack­ages are still very ex­pen­sive when com­pared to fixed broad­band,” says Teh.

“Con­sumers should try to use it only for im­por­tant com­mu­ni­ca­tion or tasks only. Don’t use it too much for leisure.”

For ex­am­ple, he sug­gests that users re­frain from stream­ing lengthy YouTube videos on mo­bile net­works and in­stead only watch them when they have ac­cess to a PC and a wired con­nec­tion.

Plac­ing Red one’s ezzy2­duo sticker over your orig­i­nal SIM card al­lows you ac­cess to two dif­fer­ent net­works.

Wise us­age: Smart­phone fea­tures can help you to bet­ter un­der­stand your In­ter­net con­sump­tion pat­tern.

ex­perts rec­om­mend that users start with an en­try-level data plan and up­grade later if nec­es­sary.

Test it out: Ste­wart Ku­mar (left) and Ja­son Lo rec­om­mend try­ing out the speed of your data pack­age at places where you fre­quently ac­cess the Web.

Zal­man Zainal thinks that it re­ally isn’t ex­pen­sive to use a data plan as long as you choose the right one for your needs.

Ben Teh sug­gests get­ting an­other SIM from a dif­fer­ent telco for bet­ter cov­er­age op­tions while on the go.

Jas­mine Lee feels those aged 30 and above have dif­fi­cul­ties de­cid­ing on a data plan.

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