Telcos offer a tip or two on how to select and make the most out of your data plan.
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.
“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 mid-range 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 downgrade, you may get penalised for doing so.”
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.