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Is The End of Slow & Bad Internet Service In Sight for Sabah?

If you live in Kota Kinabalu, or anywhere in east Malaysia really, you will know that, compared to the rest of Malaysia, the Internet speed sucks. And that’s on a good day.

For many years we’ve had to look west to see how good our fellow Netizens in west Malaysia have it.

In 2001 Streamyx became popular, and I think it arrived in Sabah only about 2 years later. For the longest time we could only longingly read about this fast Internet in articles that downloaded at almost 56kbps over noisy modems.

Then, after the snappy 1MB (best effort, never happened) Streamyx ADSL finally arrived in Kota Kinabalu, we jumped on it like rats in a flood onto a piece of driftwood.  Soon it was irrelevant how fast the connection was, the question became – ‘how many people were using it’.

The World Speeds Up. Sabah? Not So Much

As the world evolved, so did west Malaysia’s broadband.  DSL, extra fast broadband and WiMax appeared in KL and surrounds.

In 2008 P1 WiMax started deliver high speed wireless Internet to the Klang Valley. It was blazing in comparison to what had come before.

Then in 2010 TM Net brought UniFi online – fibre optics – speed of light Internet (well, sort of) – the future of the Internet.

Watching streaming movies became a reality, reports of people downloading entire movies in minutes, and nowadays – TV via the Internet.

What did Sabah get? 4mb (still best effort, still never happens) Streamyx “upgrades”.

Oh, there was some fanfare in January 2009 when a company called RedTone brought WiMax to Sabah. I excitedly tried to contact them to sign up for this great new service, but I hit a dead end back then, had to get Internet, signed up for Streamyx again.

Until today, I personally don’t actually know one single private person that is subscribed to RedTone.  I’ve heard rumours of a friend’s company subscribed to it, but have never read any reviews or feedback about them.  On top of that, they used to be more expensive than Streamxy – for the same speed and without a landline.

The difference was only RM20 (back then, I think now they are cheaper), but who wants the same speed, no phoneline and the hassle of the switch for a more expensive price?

But How Wide Is the Tunnel Anyway?

Who provides the Internet access is actually irrelevant. According to a YouTube test I did the other day, Sabah’s Internet speed – on average – is 25% of the average of the entire Malaysia.

So in RedTone Sabah gained another Internet provider, but did we get more Internet, or are they just distributing the same amount we had before?

Currently our (land-based) Internet is coming via Brunei, where 2 Internet cables land.

The SEA-ME-WE, a 960 Gb/ps cable landing in 39 countries, and AAG (Asia-American-Gateway) a 2.88 Tb/ps cable landing in 10 other countries. How much capacity Sabah gets on these cables is a hard-to-find information. (stats from Greg’s map).

Quality Provider From West Malaysia?

Earlier last month I stumbled across a news report telling of a provider from west Malaysia having invested heavily to bring the next generation WiMax (LTE – sometimes called 4G) to Sabah.

P1. These guys are like the AirAsia of Internet access. They had humble beginnings in KL in 2008 and these days are one of the big names when it comes to Internet access.

No doubt their blazing speeds have something to do with it, but if you follow them on Twitter (@P1Buddies & @P1Cares), you quickly realise they take care of their customers too.

And that’s how I know about them – through friends in KL who has had exceptional experiences with them, both speed and service.

So anyway, according to that Press Release, P1 injected RM30 million into Sabah to expand their pioneering broadband business here.

Just what we need! Hell, even if they can’t up the speed, I look forward to just dealing with a company who obviously cares about its customers.

The release did say, however, that things will start by quarter 2, and as that has come and gone, it’s unlikely that it will happen so soon.

Q3 maybe?

Attempts to cajole a more definite answer out of their Twitter accounts have been playfully thwarted. Makes me all the more eager.

Nevertheless, whenever P1 is ready for business, you can bet that I’ll be first in the queue to sign up.  Bring on the speed. Bring on the service!

 

8 Comments

  • Bapaknya Budi

    14 June 2012 at 11:47

    I have been using REDTONE Wimax broadband for about a year now. Maybe the speed is just the same as Streamyx and sure we don't get any any landline, but nowadays we have handphones. No big deal. And it's only RM139 a month with unlimited access. Compare it to P1 Wimax, as reach your quota not only the speed slows down but we are redirected to it's webpage asking us to buy more quota each time we open up our browser.

  • 1Earth

    15 June 2012 at 09:37

    Thanks for the feedback.

    I also don't care about the phone-line, I didn't even have my phone plugged in when I last had Streamyx, but it's a value proposition, which RedTone still loses.

    Now, for RM140 pm you can get 4MB speed on Streamyx – so apart from unlimited download, I supposedly get much more speed AND a phone-line with free calls to other landlines and 10c calls to mobile phones.

    Redtone offers what? The novelty of WiMax? It's not faster, it's not cheaper (ok, RM2 cheaper for the cheapest UNLIMITED package) and there's no phone benefits.

    So the question about RedTone is – why would I choose them?

    (Edit: I just remembered, there are many neighborhoods that TM does in fact not serve, which would be a good reason to choose a WiMax provider).

    And although "I hate StreamyX" is a perfectly valid answer, I would be cutting my nose to spite my face if I chose RedTone in this instance.

    Hopefully P1 will bring something irresistible to the Sabah's Internet market.

  • vinay

    13 February 2015 at 16:58

    Hi Jaco, thanks for the wonderful research and the informative article. I see this article is 3 years old now. Has the internet got any better? Who in your opinion is the best? I recently moved to KK and the internet here iskilling me!

  • Jaco Swanepoel

    12 March 2015 at 07:41

    Hey Vinay. I’m sure the Internet has gotten better, but I’m also sure not for everyone.

    In the 3 years since this article many mobile operators have increased their mobile internet offerings and UniFi has arrived.

    Where I lived before, some 4 years ago, in Kepayan Ridge now has UniFi. Go figure. Ever since I’ve been living in neighbourhoods where they haven’t installed it yet. Still, I’ve been on StreamyX all this while, now I’m on 1MB connection, but I can watch streaming movies, so delivery is better.

    I’ve not had much luck with wireless carriers. I was on a Maxis monthly contract before, the internet was fast on that, but I’m now on prepaid, and I’m pretty sure they throttle prepaid users (although I’ve asked and they say they don’t). On prepaid their internet is very patchy. Other friends complain about Digi and Celcom too, so can you win?

    Yes! is making a push, maybe it’s good to try them. Or one of the @Home options offered by either Digi, Maxis or Celcom. Experiences are so inconsistent you have to keep trying until you find something that works for you. Pity really, but that’s how it is.

  • Laszlo

    1 April 2015 at 12:34

    Jaco, you seem to have built up some expertise in this area. What do you think is the best solution for areas further out. We have a holiday home beyond Jalan Sepanggar where we have tried Maxxis and Digi mobile broadband, but they both have been very disappointing. Thanks for your advice in advance.

  • Jaco Swanepoel

    7 April 2015 at 05:11

    Hi Laszlo,

    If you want anything mobile that’s remotely reliable, your best bet would be Celcom. They’re also the most expensive, but they tend to cover areas outside the city and built-up town areas much better than Maxis (worst) and Digi (hit-and-miss).

    You might be surprised to find UniFi along Jalan Sepangar and the surrounds. Use this form on the UniFi site to check if your address has UniFi installed, but the database is not uniformly filled in, so you might need to play around with your address (and spelling).

    Otherwise, call or visit (best bet) one of the Kedai TM (there’s one next to Customs in Tanjung Aru Plaza, another in the tall 1 Malaysia Building next to the Petronas Building, which is near the State Mosque, and another in Sadong near the Maybank) and they’ll be able to do a check for you.

    If you have a choice, go with landline broadband – usually fast enough and unlimited cap. The mobile operators all have some sort of cap (which is the main reason I’ve never relied on them for very long).

    You can also explore Yes! (mobile broadband only) and if you’re brave, RedTone (WiMax). Good luck!

  • James

    5 May 2015 at 01:33

    Hi Jaco, has anything changed with the speed provided by wireless carriers or are their connections still not too reliable in KK? As for the broadband providers, which would be the best (in terms of price, speed, bandwidth) to recommend for a friend who will move to KK on a work assignment?

  • Jaco Swanepoel

    5 May 2015 at 13:03

    Hey James, I can’t really comment on the wireless carriers, because I don’t use them, mainly because they all have transfer limits and I’m a heavy user.

    I use Maxis for mobile broadband on the go, but I will never use them as my only internet connection, because I find their connection speed frustratingly variable, mostly slow.

    For unlimited data transfer TM is still the only option in Sabah as far as I know. If your friend ends up in one of the lucky neighborhoods with UniFi, then that’s the obvious best choice. From 5mbps – 20mbps, my friends who have it, love it.

    Me, I’m still chugging along on 1Mbps StreamyX, which meets my needs. FTP transfers up and down are quite decent, most webpages load fast and video streams well after an initial buffer. It takes an obvious hit for a few peak hours in the evening and during school holidays, but it’s quite tollerable.

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