B-Mobile Launches ‘Multi-SIM’ Service

It has finally happened, we have a Multi-SIM service here in Brunei thanks to B-Mobile (Read the Borneo Bulletin article at Brudirect). Multi-SIM basically allows you to clone your SIM card to put in another device. This is great for people with 3G enabled devices: e.g. iPad 3G, Galaxy Tab, etc and want to be able to make calls / use data on those devices without having to sign up for another phone number or resorting to the tedious task of switching SIM cards.

There is a monthly subscription fee of $8 per SIM card and there are 3 configurations of the service:

  1. Multi IMSI i.e. primary SIM rings only;
  2. Simultaneously i.e. both primary and secondary SIMS ring at the same time; and,
  3. Orderly i.e. primary rings first. If rejected, busy, switched off or not answered, then the secondary will ring.

Multi-SIM is applicable for the following plans:

Sadly multi-SIM is not applicable for plans with unlimited data (e.g. Postpaid ZOOM $60 Unlimited & Post-paid Smart plan $65). There is no mention of OMNI users but since it’s an unlimited plan, I presume that it will not be supported either. I guess B-Mobile is worried that people will subscribe to the multi-SIM service and use the SIMs in an unlimited data fashion and thus would congest the network.

As an a subscriber to OMNI, I hope B-Mobile could consider another plan for users with unlimited data plans: single SIM get you unlimited data, multi-SIM gets a cap (of perhaps 200GB free beyond which they will pay per amount used as the non-unlimited data plans pay). This would at least give users with unlimited data plans an option to subscribe to this multi-SIM service and not be left out with the convenience that it brings.

So now with B-Mobile supporting this, I wonder if DST will follow

USB Modem Lock-in: The Reason to buy a 3rd party 3G USB modem

What happens when you put a DST SIM card into a b-mobiled branded TechFaith Flying Angel 46 USB 3G modem as shown below?

You get a bunch of fail as the modem is locked. This is a reason to buy a 3rd party 3G USB modem as it should support any SIM card and thus will be useful for bringing overseas as well. I contacted b-mobile who told me to contact the manufacturer. I tried to email but did not get any response from them. Perhaps it’s round 2 for trying to contact them or try to learn the inner workings for locking and unlocking modems.

Brunei’s Mobile Network Code

This stems from a comment by faye. Seems that the phone usually detects the values from the SIM card as my Android phone auto populates the MCC and MNC fields but for some non-mainstream phones these values may need to be manually entered

A Mobile Network Code (MNC) is used in combination with a Mobile Country Code (MCC) (also known as a “MCC / MNC tuple”) to uniquely identify a mobile phone operator/carrier using the GSM, CDMA, iDEN, TETRA and UMTS public land mobile networks and some satellite mobile networks. The ITU-T Recommendation E.212 defines mobile country codes.
The following tables contain the complete list of mobile phone operators. Country information is provided for completeness, though this information is best obtained from theList of mobile country codes page, where ISO 3166-1 country codes are also cross referenced.
The MNC and MCC values within the table are decimal numbers.

Source: Wikipedia

Getting the b-mobile Zoom! Modem to work in 64-bit Windows 7

When you connect the b-mobile USB 3G modem (TechFaith Flying Angel) to a 64-bit Windows 7 computer, it does not seem to be detected / the drivers are not installed automatically. The drivers need to be installed manually after installation of the modem software as shown below.

Summary: Use drivers located in “C:Program Files (x86)b-mobilePocketmodem Connection ManagerInstallDriversdriversQUALCOMTDRV_QUALCOMAWinVistaX64″. This worked in 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium and should work in 32-bit Windows and other Windows 7 versions

Pictorial Installation Guide

  1. Install Modem Software (SeamlessKeyLauncher.exe in CD drive that shows up when connecting the modem)

  2. After installation, go into “Device Manager” (Control Panel > System and Security > System > Device Manager in the side bar)

  3. Find “Qualcomm Configuration” under “Other devices” and “Mobile Connect” under “Ports (COM & LPT)”.

  4. Right-click > “Properties” > “Update Driver”

  5. Select “Browse my computer for driver software: Locate and install driver software manually” and then specify “C:Program Files (x86)b-mobilePocketmodem Connection ManagerInstallDriversdriversQUALCOMTDRV_QUALCOMAWinVistaX64″ and click next to install the driver

  6. Ensure that all unknown devices (I believe there are 3) and everything should work now. Connect to the Internet and be happy

B-Mobile’s Android Powered Huawei U8230

Huawei U8230 product image from GSM Arena
(image via GSM Arena)

So I just came back from Australia and I found out that B-Mobile was selling the Huawei U8230 at TechXpo 2010 for only BND$299 [Source Borneo Bulletin (Friday 5th November via Website)]. See the full specifications at GSM Arena. The phone was announced in June of 2009 so it is a relatively old hardware platform but at the $299 price point it is very competitively priced. It runs Android 2.1 and uses the same processor is the old HTC Hero so expect it to perform similarly.

Check out an unboxing video below:

Good Points

  • Large & high resolution screen (3.5″ at 320×480 vs other budget Android phones of 240×320 resolution e.g. HTC Wildfire)
  • Capacitive Display
  • Google certified thus has Market and other Google apps (e.g. GMail, Youtube, Google Maps)
  • Dual cameras
  • Accelerometer
  • Cheap!

Issues / Contention Points

  • 2.5mm headphone jack meaning you will need an adaptor for regular headphones
  • No multitouch (souce: Digital Versus)
  • Older processor and may not run more modern games smoothly
  • Not a lot of memory (192MB RAM and 256MB ROM)
    • RAM is required for multi-tasking so expect to close applications
    • ROM is used to store applications and since this is not Android 2.2
  • Possibly no official 2.2 (Froyo) update

I gave B-Mobile a call to see if they have any of the units on display to play around with but alas all the units are sold out and they are waiting for a new batch to come. Not surprising that it is sold out being so cheap and offering so much with Android. I applaud B-Mobile for pushing Android at such an affordable price and, in my phone call with them, they said that it is unlocked too. The phone is not a spectacularly fantastic phone but a solid mid-range phone with great potential with Android. The fact that it is Google certified with the Android Market for downloading applications makes it even more compelling. I would highly recommend this to people wanting to get an affordable smartphone as Android is a currently well supported platform and thus has many up-to-date applications unlike Nokia’s S60.

PS. Anybody in Brunei bought this? I would love to have a hands on.

Other related links:

Joikuspot + bmobile Zoom! + OS X = Data Corruption?

So I’ve been using Joikuspot to tether my bmobile Zoom! wirelessly to my MacBook Pro running OS X and I noticed some weird hiccups and glitches that show some sort of corruption of the data bits I’m receiving from the Internet. The 4 main issues are

  1. Corrupted Webpages: that will show HTML markup in the middle or end of the page or even load gibberish

  2. Corrupted Images: the image will not fully load and reloading will not solve it (forgot to try clearing the cache though, I used Opera Turbo instead)

    Check out Lizzette Piltch’s Photos at Dragon Con 2010 for the full TMNT costumes among others

  3. Corrupted downloads: downloading the same file multiple times gives different md5sum hashes. Downloading directly from the phone seemed to get the file properly (so perhaps this rules out bmobile’s Zoom! as part of the problem)

  4. Interrupted videos streams: YouTube shows that it has loaded the whole video (after seeing the red progress ‘bar’ load fully) but in the middle of the video it just stops (this is different from truncated video streams where if you monitor the red progress bar it will jump from the middle to the end abruptly when loading the file)

Marul seems to have no issues for his Joikuspot so could it be OS X? Or could it just be an unreliable Internet connection from bmobile? Whatever is the cause of a combination of causes it does get annoying and wonder if there are ways to detect what’s going on and solve this strange problem of mine.

DST and bmobile’s Revised Mobile Plans

Posting this up because I couldn’t find the DST revised plans on their website. All I can say is that this is what competition is all about: in the end the customers win. Now lets just hope Telbru gets competition for eSpeed

DST Revised Prima Plans

$35
Essential Voice Plan
$55
Extra Voice Plan
$55
Extra Text Plan
$85
Executive Voice Plan
$85
Executive Text Plan
$165
Elite Voice Plan
Free Voice (minutes) 300 2000 500 4000 2000 Unlimited
Free SMS 100 200 600 400 1200 Unlimited
Free MMS 20 55 55 85 85 Unlimited
Free Data 1.5GB 5GB 5GB 10GB 10GB 20GB

Source: Brunei Times E-Paper (view newspaper promo advert)

For good measure I’ve throw in bmobile‘s revised rates too

Bmobile’s Revised Plans

Smart $35 Smart $45 Smart $55 Smart $65
Free Voice (minutes) 300 500 1000 1200
Free SMS 100 200 300 500
Free MMS 20 30 40 40
Free Data 1.5GB 3GB 10GB Unlimited

Source: bmobile website (view screenshot)

Bmobile’s 1st Generation 3.5G HSDPA Modem in Ubuntu/Linux

bmobile's 1st Generation 3.5G HSDPA modem

bmobile's 1st Generation 3.5G HSDPA modem

Ever since I had the opportunity of using bmobile‘s 3.5G modem to get mobile broadband (via Zoom!) I was curious to see whether it would work in Linux. After much testing, I did manage to get it to work but it wasn’t consistent (it only seemed to work when the modem was tied to /dev/ttyUSB0, so I kepted plugging it in and out and redialed to see if it worked).

For the newer bmobile modem check out this page courtesy of @jikam

Test system: Running Ubuntu 9.04.

  1. Get usb_modeswitch (in Ubuntu / Debian you can “apt-get install usb_modeswitch” which makes things much easier)
  2. Get the usb_modeswitch.conf file and put it in /etc/
  3. The modem is identified an Alcatel One Touch X020 / X030 / MDB-100HU / Nuton 3.5G (lsusb will show ) so search usb_modeswitch.conf and uncomment the section for DefaultVendor, DefaultProduct, TargetVendor, TargetProduct and MessageContent

    ########################################################
    # Alcatel One Touch X020 (aka OT-X020, aka MBD-100HU, aka Nuton 3.5G), works with Emobile D11LC
    # Alcatel One Touch X030 (aka OT-X030, aka Nuton NT36HD)
    #
    # Contributor: Aleksandar Samardzic, Marcelo Fernandez

    ;DefaultVendor= 0x1c9e
    ;DefaultProduct= 0x1001

    ;TargetVendor= 0x1c9e
    ;TargetProduct= 0x6061

    # only for reference and 0.x versions
    # MessageEndpoint=0x05

    ;MessageContent="55534243123456780000000000000606f50402527000000000000000000000"

    ########################################################

    to

    ########################################################
    # Alcatel One Touch X020 (aka OT-X020, aka MBD-100HU, aka Nuton 3.5G), works with Emobile D11LC
    # Alcatel One Touch X030 (aka OT-X030, aka Nuton NT36HD)
    #
    # Contributor: Aleksandar Samardzic, Marcelo Fernandez

    DefaultVendor= 0x1c9e
    DefaultProduct= 0x1001

    TargetVendor= 0x1c9e
    TargetProduct= 0x6061

    # only for reference and 0.x versions
    # MessageEndpoint=0x05

    MessageContent="55534243123456780000000000000606f50402527000000000000000000000"

    ########################################################

  4. Do the actual mode switch for the modem to change the device from USB storage to modem mode:
    sudo usb_modeswitch
  5. Create the USB serial device for dial up:
    sudo modprobe usbserial vendor=0x1c9e product=0x6061
    This step created 3 devices (/dev/ttyUSB0, /dev/ttyUSB1, /dev/ttyUSB2) on my system.
  6. Use the Network Manager Applet to configure a new broadband modem connection with the B-Mobile configuration (APN: bmobilewap)

As mentioned this does not work consistently, so if it doesn’t seem to connection try plugging the USB modem out and back in and retry. I will try find a way to get this more consistent, but hopefully this will help those who are trying to get it to work

bmobile Zoom! (+ E-Speed, DST Go!) Findings

Ever since bmobile and DST launched their mobile broadband offerings (Zoom! and Go!)I was interested to see which one offered the best deal. I’ve had a few weeks with the bmobile’s Zoom! service using the older modem with 3.6Mbps max speeds and did some speed tests and real world tests. In the real world tests it got frustrating at times with quite a few timeouts and YouTube videos loading only to stop loading half way. Real world download tests weren’t fantastic, typically under 512kbps which is even slower than the lowest tier E-Speed plan. My regular locations were at home in Jalan Kebangsaan Lama, and at the old airport road which is basically just across Telbru Headquarters. After a while I found out that doing a regular speed test at Speedtest.net was not giving optimal results, I would get less than 300kbps (~40KB/s) download speeds but in actual fact when I download podcasts I would get over 500kbps (~60KB/s) easily.

I found that if I do multiple downloads/connections I would be able to get faster speeds. I was able to roughly max out the modem to the full 3.6Mbps connection (but that was close to Telbru, not at home). At home torrenting some music off Jamendo managed to get up to 100KB/s but it was not consistent. Below shows a torrent downloading at over 200KB/s.

Jollicloud torrent getting over 300KB/s download on bmobile's Zoom!

I know location and people/connection saturation are important factors for any mobile broadband connections and honestly I’m pretty jealous of David Cheok’s reports on his Go! getting good speeds in Subok

“actually.. have been getting avg 500KB daily.. last night was good coz it broke 700KB..”  (via Twitter)

He also went on to say the following statement which I totally agree with:

“if downloading is your thing, Go for GO. If good response time/less lag, Zoom. Even better, espd.” (via Twitter)

That also brings me to another important fact that Go! seems to have pretty bad upload speeds (up to 20x less than Zoom!). If you’re planning on uploading photos or doing some streaming video from your webcam or even Skype, Go! may not be the answer you’re looking for. For anything to do with uploads, stick to E-Speed or Zoom!

Zoom! speedtests: Behind MOE (Old Airport), Jalan Kebangsaan Lama, Desa Cafe (Delima), Aman Complex, MOF

Go! speedtestsBehind MOE (Old Airport), Jalan Kebangsaan Lama, Giant

Bmobile’s iPhone Promotion

If you haven’t heard, b-mobile has subsidized iPhones 3GS’s with a b-mobile subscription contract of 18 months. This is one of the first subsidized mobile phone price plans I’ve seen in Brunei. The other would be DST‘s October promotion offerings that offered a Nokia E75, Nokia E52 and Sony Ericsson C901 with contracts of 6 months. With b-mobile having first introduced their mobile broadband Zoom! which was followed up by DST’s Go!, what I hope to see is more competition among the 2 mobile phone providers which in the end leads to the consumer winning. Recently in Singapore, M1 and StarHub released their iPhone plans which led SingTel to change their previous plans (most notably the increase of free data to 12GB, from a typical measly 500MB/1GB), so as consumers we have to love competition.

I went down to b-mobile to find out more about the iPhone and they mentioned that is it the never locked version and that they are handling the mobile phone service while AV Electronics handles all the other iPhone/Apple/iTunes/Applications related aspects of this deal. While talking to the guy at the bmobile counter he did mention that bmobile was getting the iPhone and DST was going to get the Blackberry. Rumour has it that the Blackberry will be reveal next year but timing is still not confirmed. If it does come to fruition people will be happy (especially the High Commissioner of Canada, who urged Brunei to set up a Blackberry Network).

Initially when asking about the HTC Touch Diamond Pro and Samsung Jet (which was a few weeks back) the guy told me that the details would be released later, but on further inquiry today I was told that both are available but you would have to custom order it and the personnel could not disclose the price plans as marketing was not present. I find that awkward that they are selling a product but have not disclosed the pricing. Anyway the price plans for the subsidized iPhone are as follows.

Note: Contract is for 18 months and the total costs listed are based on the prices for locals that included 1 annual license fee of $25 and a deposit of $50. For foreigners add another $50 to the total cost (as deposits for foreigners is $100 vs $50 for locals).

iPhone 3GS 16GB

Phone Cost (B$) Monthly Cost (B$) Total Cost (B$)
Smart $35 Package 999 35 1704
Smart $45 Package 799 45 1684
Smart $55 Package 599 55 1664
Smart $65 Package 399 65 1644

iPhone 3GS 32GB

Phone Cost (B$) Monthly Cost (B$) Total Cost (B$)
Smart $35 Package 1199 35 1904
Smart $45 Package 999 45 1884
Smart $55 Package 799 55 1864
Smart $65 Package 599 65 1844

Price Plan Details:

Free Voice minutes Free SMS Free MMS Free Data
Smart $35 Package 300 100 20 1.5GB
Smart $45 Package 500 200 30 3GB
Smart $55 Package 1000 300 40 10GB
Smart $65 Package 1200 500 50 Unlimited

Note: Beyond the free data, the user is chargeable at 20c/MB up to $40 at which the user can use unlimited data

If you are planning to take b-mobile up on this subsidized iPhone I would recommend subscribing using the Smart $65 Package as it has the lowest up-front payment, the cheapest in the long run and provides the best in terms of perks (especially the unlimited data). With the iPhone you use it as a broadband modem at it would be easy to exceed the 1.5GB/3GB of the 2 lower priced plans and considering that $40 corresponds to 200MB which isn’t much at all. If you take the $65 package, the iPhone can be considered as a Zoom! subscription ($65/month for iPhone vs $60/month for Zoom!) but has so much more benefits.

If you’re looking for a iPhone or even if you’re just looking to get a mobile broadband subscription (Zoom! from b-mobile or Go! from DST) I would recommend the Smart $65 Package bundled with the iPhone of your choice. You get an unlimited broadband connection which can be tethered to your computer wherever you are and the highly coveted iPhone which is currently the best smartphone platform at the moment.