Is Brunei Mobile Data Really that Expensive?

I’ve heard complaints that DST, one of the Brunei mobile telcos, rip people off with regards to charging for data. Let’s see if that’s true.

So I compared Brunei’s cellular data from DST and Progresif Cellular to different telcos in 4 countries

And I’ve come up with this spreadsheet.

On a cursory glance, it seems that

  • UK has pretty good prices in all data tiers
  • we have one of the worst excess data charges
  • DST pricing isn’t that great when data usage is under 5GB
  • with plans using more than 5GB of data (and especially > 10GB data), DST is actually very good so long as you stay within the quota amount

Hope to do more in-depth look soon

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Data hungry tourist in Australia? Optus $2 Days to the rescue

A couple of months back there were articles about mobile phone roaming charges and I feel the best way to prevent such a problem is to just use a local SIM card. So on my short trip to Melbourne, a couple of months back, I was lucky to have my brother’s Optus prepaid SIM which he had used the Optus $2 Days Prepaid plan which offers:

  • Unlimited National Voice Calls
  • Unlimited Standard SMS/MMS
  • Unlimited Mobile Internet Browsing

This trifecta makes is perfect for practically anybody! The last time I was in Melbourne, I tried Vodafone and the data prices were horrendous (most prepaid plans seem pretty expensive in Australia), so I was very surprised to see unlimited data for $2/day. I’ve tried M1’s and Singtel’s offerings in Singapore and both only offered data: no voice or text.

As with all mobile data, coverage is important: there is no use having unlimited data if there is no reception! Check out any coverage maps to ensure that the place you go indeed has 3G reception (Optus coverage map). Also if there network is congested and saturated with people, it can be a frustrating experience. Thankfully, this was not the case with Optus in the CBD area, where I was most of the time.I manged to get consistent 6Mbps download speeds while downloading my podcasts.

Also do remember to read the fine print when signing up for these plans so that you don’t get charge unexpectedly (by wrongly assuming something is free or counted in the deal when it is not). Sadly when you do read the Optus fine print in the Terms & Conditions it says the $2 charges exclude "mobile handset tethering and use of non mobile voice devices" which I made sure I didn’t do just in case. Also their Optus Mobile Fair Go Policy applies to your usage which is basically guarding against ‘excessive usage’ which would probably be detrimental to the general network (i.e. causes congestion for other users)

All in all, I enjoyed the freedom of being able to use my phone without worrying about any caps or running out of credit. I would highly recommend this plan for all those data hungry Twitter / Facebook / Foursquare / Instagram / WhatsApp / Viber / other text alternative apps / general web addicted people out there. Heck if you need a SIM card before you go, I (or you) could ask my brother to borrow the SIM card.

Terms & Conditions of Optus $2 Days (via Optus website)

  • Daily usage fee is $2 and includes unlimited standard national calls, SMS & MMS to Australian GSM mobiles (excluding Pivotel); standard national calls to Australian fixed lines; voicemail retrieval and mobile internet browsing on your handset within Australia. Includes free voicemail deposits within Australia.
  • Excludes premium SMS and content, international and satellite calling and text, international roaming charges, Zoo content usage charges, video calling, 966 calls, mobile handset tethering and use of non mobile voice devices. Optus Mobile Fair Go Policy applies.
  • Timing is based on AEST (the time in Sydney, NSW) regardless of your location. Please adjust your usage to allow for time differences.
  • The usage fee is charged on the first outbound standard national call, SMS, MMS or mobile internet access each day after 12.00.00am AEST. Usage fee is not charged on days when no outbound standard national call, SMS, MMS, voicemail or mobile internet access is made.
  • Unlimited standard national daily calls maximum duration is 24 hours.
  • International calls are charged in increments of up to 10 minutes.
  • Daily usage fee inclusions expire on the earlier of: 1. 11:59:59pm AEST each day; or 2. the time on which you select another offer.
  • If you change from $2 Days to another offer after you have paid your daily usage fee, you will forfeit the benefits available under the Dollar Days offer.
  • Me2U is not available with these offers.
  • Recharge voucher expiry : $10 is 10 days, $15 is 15 days, $20 is 20 days, $30 is 30 days, $40 is 40 days and $50 is 50 days, $70 is 70 days and $100 is 100 days
  • Unused credit rolls over when your next recharge is before your credit expiry.
  • Options for $5, $10, $15 & $20 top-ups are not available. Some handsets are set to seek data automatically (eg email or other apps). This will use the internet and, in some cases, charges will apply.
  • Mobile Internet access requires a compatible handset. Optus may in the future require customers to change their Internet connection settings to be able to access the Internet while on the Dollar Days offers.
  • ^Rollover credit: You must recharge a minimum of 24 hours before your credit expires for rollover to apply.

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)

Speed up the Internet / Reducing your Data Bill

We all love the Internet. Many of us can’t live without it (or at least we think we can’t live without it). E-mail. Instant Messaging. Social Networking. Pick your poison. But as many of us know in Brunei, the Internet can sometimes be hard to get a hold of. Not that we don’t have Internet connections but more due to problems with our service provider Telbru e-speed service or rather it being a congested office network where co-workers are streaming YouTube and other bandwidth consuming services. Some solutions or workarounds I will suggest will basically reduce the amount of data that your browser will ask from the servers that it visits and basically that in turn will help you reduce your data bill. This is great for those with 3G modems without an unlimited data deal and just good to know for any phone-wielding-Internet-accessing user

Use Mobile Versions of the Website

Sites like Twitter have a mobile version of their site catered for phones that usually offers most of the features of the regular site. These pages are typically free from ads and superfluous images and Flash. Sites may not look as pretty and as fully functional as you like it, but you get the gist of the information.

Mobile versions of: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, CNET, Engadget, Digg (iPhone specific, General)

Use an alternative browser (Opera / Skyfire)

Opera mini has always been a great browser for the phone and for users it lets them save on data costs because Opera mini uses a technology of proxying where you data is passed through Opera’s proxy servers (take note of the privacy and security implications of this). The proxying that Opera does on your data enables them to optimize the page for viewing on your phone and at the same time resize images so that you don’t have to download the full image which would cost you. Now the images will not look as clear and sharp as the original but it’s a good trade-off and there are even settings to let images load on “Low”, “Medium” or “High” qualities. Opera mini’s proxy server technology has also been brought to the desktop with Opera Turbo available for Windows, Mac, Linux and other platforms.

Skyfire is similar to Opera mini with regards to the proxying but the cool thing about Skyfire is that it lets you have the PC web browsing experience on your phone (Nokia S60 and Windows Mobile), meaning things like Flash (video) and Silverlight will work. This is a good way to get to watch your media fast and not have to wait for a regular computer web browser to load the video. The video is not as smooth and audio can get out of sync with the video and it can be hard to watch video on a small phone screen but for some things like live streaming, it allows you be a part of the experience rather than waiting in buffering/loading land.

Block Unnecessary Information (Images / Advertisement / Flash / Plugins / Javascript)

All these contribute to the information downloaded to your computer and sometimes the loading of a particular piece of information stalls the whole page from loading.

Blocking Images

  • Firefox:
    • Windows/Linux: Tools Menu > Options
    • Linux: Edit menu > Preferences
    • Mac: Firefox Menu item > Preferences
    • > Content Tab > Uncheck “Load images automatically”
      Firefox Preferences - Content pane
  • Opera: In the status bar on the bottom click the image toggle dropdown and select “No Images”
    Opera - Disable Images via status bar

Blocking Advertisements

Blocking Flash

  • Firefox: Flashblock. Replaces Flash objects with a place holder in case you still want to load it
    Flashblock in Firefox in action
  • Opera: Enable “Opera Turbo”. Replaces Flash objects with a place holder in case you still want to load it
    • Windows/Linux: Tools Menu > Quick Preferences
    • Mac: Opera Menu item > Quick Preferences
    • > “Enable Opera Turbo” or Toggle Opera Turbo in the bottom status bar
      Opera Turbo via status bar
  • For multi-browser solution refer to “Blocking Plugins”

Blocking Plugins

  • Disabling Plugins in your browser
  • Firefox: Tools Menu > Add-ons > Plugins Tab > Disable all/appropriate plugins
    Firefox addons - Plugins tab
  • Opera:
    • Windows/Linux: Tools Menu > Quick Preferences
    • Mac: Opera Menu item > Quick Preferences
    • Uncheck “Enable Java”
    • Uncheck “Enable Plug-ins”

    Opera - Quick preferences

Blocking Javascript

  • Firefox:
    • NoScript
      or
    • Windows/Linux: Tools Menu > Options
    • Linux: Edit menu > Preferences
    • Mac: Firefox Menu item > Preferences
    • > Content Tab > Uncheck “Load JavaScript”
  • Opera:

    • Windows/Linux: Tools Menu > Quick Preferences
    • Mac: Opera Menu item > Quick Preferences
    • Uncheck “Enable Javascript”
  • Note: Disabling Javascript may cause most sites not to function properly as they depend on Javascript for various functions.