Customers are in the dilemma choosing the value offered by the mobile network solution providers. WE delve into this topic that may help or break your monthly budget.

The telco market in Malaysia has gone through many changes over the last two decades – from the introduction of GSM services to the latest generation high-speed LTE connectivity. While 4G connection just about everywhere in the country, we have a big question, which Telco provider should I choose, and should I go for the prepaid or postpaid package.

I was doing some research about telco in Malaysia. As I was looking for a telco solution for my mother that is cost effective yet complete with the expected high speed connectivity that is on offer today. What I found was that there are so many options available out there, that one can drown in options right out of the gate.

Right now there are four main telcos in Malaysia that ply their trade, with multitude more acting as MVNOs or Mobile Virtual Network Operators. The former usually have their own network up and running, while the latter piggy backs on current network through agreements made with the big four. Most of the companies has both prepaid and post-paid solutions – with one or two are on either prepaid or post-paid exclusively. All of these choices can make things hard for the end consumer as there are literally a multitude of choices to choose from when considering a postpaid or prepaid line.

The biggest difference between having a prepaid and a post-paid line is the way you pay for your purchase – we all know how to head to the nearest convenience store to buy the reload ticket. These purchases can either be for the short term – with validity only lasting a week – or longer term purchases with validity that can last for a whole year.

Post-paid accounts meanwhile mean that the account holder pays at the end of ever billing cycle, and will be billed based on the commitment level that they have agreed upon registering. Anything else is charges extra on top of the commitment amount.

Prepaid and post-paid accounts each has its own pros and cons – where prepaid are usually cheaper to get into, post-paid accounts will have month-long validity even if the commitment amount is small. On the other hand, the total cost for prepaid purchases may be wasted if users do not use the credit as the validity period for each reload is set, and will not be valid once the time window is passes. For post-paid accounts, you could potentially be locked to the contract for a long period of time and there may be even hidden charges that was not specified in the beginning of the tenure.

What makes the companies differ from one and another? It all boils down to the features that they offer to each customer at different pricing tiers. Each company brings to the table different packages that may or may not appeal to users out there. Some may need more data, others may need more calls on their package. This means that companies will have to cater to a wide range of needs on the market – ranging from those who just need the basics, to those who needs all the boxes ticked.

The problem with these packages is that they are set in stone, and under the banner of one fit all. No telco in the market currently offer piece-meal and ala-carte offerings for those who are just looking for a particular facet of communications. Some companies did use to offer data-centric contracts or call-centric contract – however these days the days of just wanting to call people unlimitedly has gone to the dogs.

There are reasons on why this is happening – there are apps that now offering unlimited voice calls at the expense of data. This means that companies that offers better data rates may surge ahead than others in the same field. Data is getting cheap, no denying of that.

To that end, companies are aggressively promoting their packages to the end consumer, with some companies crossing the price line where their post-paid packages are cheaper than prepaid lines. The question is –are they as cheap as they purport them to be?

Several companies are pushing cheap post-paid packages that may be cheap in the short term, but comes with additional costs in the longer run. However, some post-paid accounts are truly cheap and full of value it is a waste to not be on board with them.

Take U Mobile for example. Their cheapest package is the u28, which gives users 3GB of Data, 50 minutes of free calls to all networks and 300 free SMSs – all of this for only RM28 a month. The nearest post-paid offering is from Celcom where it costs RM45 monthly, and gives customers 4GB of Data, (which is split into 2GB for weekdays and 2GB for weekends) plus50 SMS and call minutes to all networks.

At the same time, prepaids can cost more than what U Mobile offers. Take for example TuneTalk. You can buy their SIM pack from just about any shops in Malaysia, and they accept the usual prepaid reload vouchers to be used for calls, data and whatnot. What makes them different is that users can also pay for one year validity – which means that the number can be kept valid for one year even when it is not topped up regularly. The catch is that the service costs RM28, and users need at least RM33 balance in their account to enable this service for their line.

Going back to the U Mobile package – users technically get what they paid, with caveats here and there. For example – the 300 free SMSes? It is split to 10o SMS for U Mobile numbers and 200 for other networks. And if you go past the allocated free quota – your calls will be charged extra. You will be charged 9 cents for every 30 seconds of call with U Mobile numbers and 10 cents for every 30 seconds.

Prepaid can also rack up charges when using the line – but the biggest cost lost when using prepaid lines are the fact that your top-up is only valid for a short time. For example, a RM10 top-up with a single prepaid company last you for a week, so on average you will need to pay about RM40 a month just to keep your line active – unless you are with TuneTalk. Imagine the cost if you are a light user and you have to reload just to keep your line active.

The upside of all of this that customer is king – they are free to make their own choice. This also gives chance to telco companies in creating and customizing new packages for new and retaining customers. In the end, we have to check in the user’s side on how they use their phone as different consumers will have different ways of using their phones. Some may want extra data, some extra minutes to talk – others may just want to have a line for family and friends to contact them during emergencies.

Article by Sharil Abdul Rahman

Feature image by Key Differences