I have now spent eight days of vacation in Malaysia, at first five days in the capital city Kuala Lumpur, and then the rest of the time on the largest island, Langkawi. As a Facebook and news addict I took my Symbian and Windows Phone smartphones, and of course laptop (MacBook Air) here with me. In Finland I have a multi-SIM subscription (with two cards) from my employet and a separate subscription for mobile data (USB stick). However, I can’t use them here due to very expensive roaming charges.
So I looked for options already in advance. In many forum discussions, most people recommended Celcom or Maxis brands of which I have heard of. So when I landed at the Langkawi airport, I just headed to the first operator store which happened to be Celcom branded. They offered a flat-rate deal with 3G for 40 MYR (about 10 EUR) for two weeks. It sounded very tempting, so I bought the pre-paid package. They were friendly and even activated the service for my Huawei E5 modem.
The reality outcome was not that great anyway. I never got any 3G (UMTS or HSPA) connection in Kuala Lumpur or Langkawi. The service stopped working after one week. The instructions I was given for continuing the service for the second week did not work.
So, here in Langkawi I went to another mobile operator store asking for mobile internet service. Service was again very friendly, and the two salespersons I asked immediately understood what I want.
On my mobile phones (Nokia N8 and Lumia 800) I have noticed ”My Maxis” has 3,5G (HSPA) service here, so I asked for that. The salesperson said I’d need to activate that myself, and it might not be possible in English. He once again recommended Celcom, but insisted I could still get 3G access up to 384 kbit/s /standard UMTS downlink speed). That would be enough me, so I paid 22,5 MYR (about 5,6 EUR) for one weeks of access. I immediately tried it on my Huawei E5 and got a working 3G link.
3G coverage has been very limited here so far, and having two friends close to me with 3G phones or USB modems often drops my link to a high latency and slow 2,5G (EDGE) mode. My neighbour has a Sony Vaio laptop with an integrated 2G/3G/3,5G. He seems to get an HSPA link most of the time, so I guess his laptop has a better (larger size?) antenna than my Huawei E5.
But when the 3G mode randomly works, this is a very affordable and useable option for searching for open WiFi hotspots. My hotel also offers WiFi access, but they charge a ridiculous price and sell access inconveniently by hourly rates. .
As a conclusion, my advice for travelers in Malaysia would be to try get the Maxis service (working in the same network as Celcom as far as I know), but to make sure you can get the correct settings somehow. It might be a good idea to take your laptop or modem with you to the store and immediately test the right settings.
Most important of all, my operator in Finland, TeliaSonera, does not not get any money from my mobile surfing here. Roaming charges are so outrageous. To ensure this, I have disabled mobile data roaming abroad in my Sonera SIM cards.
I would be happy to hear about other experiences of pre-paid mobile data in Malaysia and other countries.