2016 has been an interesting year for the Malaysian telco industry, we started paying lower prices for more data, and more recently all telcos have begin to offer dedicated streaming data, which we really need to commend U Mobile for making this happen. Apart from these events, two new players have emerged this year and while they are not technically new in the telco industry, they both happen to revamp their services to adapt to the growing trend of LTE networks, Yes 4G and webe (formerly known as P1 Networks) are the new contenders in the Malaysian telco industry, these telcos were formerly one of the leaders in offering high speed broadband when WiMAX was still a thing back then, which unfortunately the technology didn't live up its hype due to the lack of devices and complications of implementing it.
In this case, Yes 4G built an all 4G IP based network and offered VoLTE for voice calls, while webe went for a more traditional approach by utilising its parent company TM's existing infrastructure and offered unlimited data, calls and text on one single plan. Now, it would seem that the latter would have something really attractive to offer up its sleeve, but it certainly comes with compromises, which is the reason that you are reading this review before you make your decision to port or sign up a new line with webe.
Webe vs Yes 4G
I can't help writing this section simply because the introduction of this article already feels a lot like a comparison, but I'll certainly make it short and simple to cover some general comparisons.
Monthly Commitment and Plans
Webe has been really proud of boasting its RM79/month plan with unlimited calls, data and text, but once you check out the * sign on its price, it is in fact one of the most expensive mobile plans if you are not using a webe certified phone and an existing P1/TM customer, as for the former if you happen to be using a common Galaxy smartphone or iPhone, you'll most likely be able to use the service without any issues while enjoying a RM60 rebate.
Otherwise, you would receive an SMS like this and it isn't really friendly at all. (Note: This is a OnePlus 3)
Yes 4G on the other hand provides both prepaid and postpaid options, its most affordable postpaid plan starts from RM48/month and you get access to the company's existing WiMAX network as well, so that's a better deal when compared to webe's requirements. However, you will need to have a VoLTE capable device when using the company's network, but unlike webe's no-rebate policy, the network will not connect if you slot the SIM into a non VoLTE device, Yes 4G has been a little vague about its phone support and hasn't even started supporting iPhones, despite being available since the iPhone 6.
As mentioned, webe uses its parent company TM's current base stations to provide its services, it falls back to 3G and 2G networks when 4G isn't available, you are also able to use it in most 4G smartphones if you are not troubled by the webe certified phone rebate.
Just like how U Mobile started its early days in the market, Yes 4G built its network on the most recent wireless technology and they were pretty forward thinking in doing that, the telco even claimed that it has coverage over 85% of the peninsular, unfortunately when it come to remote places and indoors with limited coverage, there's no legacy network to fall back on and the telco doesn't even have Wi-Fi calling to back the network. It can be disappointing in the beginning stages, but it has already become a deal breaker for some thinking to consider using the telco's network as a daily driver.
Webe - the no strings attached telco experience reviewed
I was provided a webe SIM for review prior to the launch and have been actively using the service for three weeks to conclude this review. The SIM’s packaging is simple and straightforward, you get a piece of simple instruction to guide you on setting up webe’s access point on your phone, the provided SIM card comes in three sizes on a single piece of adapter so there is no SIM cutting necessary.
During the review period, I’ve been travelling most of the time around Petaling Jaya and have visited major malls around the area, webe’s network fortunately stays up well in most locations I visited, LTE signals have been mostly consistent and as expected, the network falls back to 3G or 2G signals when I am deep inside the mall, such as going into cinema halls or sitting deep inside a restaurant, despite of that webe’s data connection is surprisingly workable in most cases, while at this point of time I assume their network hasn’t been loaded, which is why I was still able to send an image through WhatsApp over an EDGE connection without failure.
Speed tests performed throughout Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur.
Even though I was connected to webe’s LTE network most of the time, actual speed tests performed using Ookla’s Speedtest.net app suggests that the telco has capped its maximum speeds, I recorded 5 Mbps of download speed most of the time and to my surprise, webe’s HSPA+ signal delivers faster speeds at times than you are on LTE. Thankfully, the capped data transfer speeds streams YouTube videos well without any buffers, VoIP calls and Facebook Live will work great if you are in a good coverage area.
Webe does have one huge limitation when it comes to it data services, as you will need to subscribe to a data tethering package that costs RM6.36/2 hours (GST included) in order to share your phone’s data connection to other devices, which I find it rather inconvenient and absurd if the telco considers this to be a ‘Fair Usage Policy’. However, if you are using an Android smartphone, you can actually get away with it by using an app called Clockworkmod Tether, which enables your PC and Mac to share your phone’s connection using the Tunneling network methodology to avoid the telco’s detection, unfortunately I find it to be rather unreliable at times and I don’t recommend this if you are doing serious work.
Rather than charging an hourly rate for tethering, I would really hope that webe consider having monthly tethering plans for this, which I would gladly sign up if available.
Webe’s effort in providing a no strings attached service is commendable, the compromise of a capped data transfer speed can be understood for ensuring the reliability of its network and to avoid risk being overloaded, which some Malaysian telcos haven’t handled well when they start offering more data at affordable prices. Unlike some Malaysian telcos, webe isn’t boasting about having the fastest network or widest coverage in the nation, which is a good thing in terms of managing a user’s expectations about its service. Unfortunately, the requirements to enjoy the service with an affordable monthly fee and paying for internet tethering could be a deal breaker, the latter defeats the purpose of having an unlimited data service which most of us would really want to take advantage of sharing internet to other devices.
- Worry free service
- Decent LTE coverage in urban areas
- Falls back to 3G and GSM in limited coverage areas
- Reliable and consistent data transfer speeds
The Not so Good
- Capped data transfer speeds
- Requires webe certified phone and subscription to TM/P1 services to enjoy subsidised monthly fee
- Paying for internet tethering is absurd
- No VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling