P1 Broadband Wimax in Johor Bahru, Malaysia

Update: P1 is unreliable, do not consider them for anything but a backup. Once they provide historical and real time uptime and real speed data from a 3rd party then you can think of considering them. In 6 weeks they have been down multiple days for multiple hours. One day for 1 hour would be bad. Being down several hours in a month would be very bad. They have been that unreliable and down multiple weeks (I think 50% of the weeks) for multiple hours a multiple days. Extremely poor. They don’t even have bother to apologize and explain each failure (at least 3 long term very serious failures in 6 weeks). As I stated in the last update, that tells you enough them to avoid P1, if you are smart. And it also explains why they keep failing over and over and over (when they don’t even acknowledge the causes of the failures, maybe they don’t even figure them out).

Finding a decent provider isn’t easy, the reviews online make it seem like P1 is as good as any provider (maybe Unify is best but it is offered on in very limited locations).

I needed broadband internet for my condo in Johor Bahru. In looking at the various options they seemed pretty similar. P1 offers the highest speed I saw 5Mbps and 30Gb a month (for the RM 139 a month plan) and so that seemed best to me. They also offer a 7 day trial period which was nice. And you can use it in 2 hours (after some setup by their system to activate your modem), which is nice. You can check out if your area is covered.

My speed was pretty bad at first. I was able to get support through Twitter. After awhile they said they would monitor the modem from their side. Then they said they made tweaks to the modem and things actually do seem better. I really wonder what they do to speed it up? The speed is still not near 5 Mbps. If I average 1.5 Mbps I would be surprised. I have only had it for about a week now so I do need to get more data. Today it has been above 2 Mbps for much of the day so if that continues it could be good (I even had 2 tests where it was nearly 4 Mbps – the average today may well be above 3). But it does seem 5 Mbps is much more a marketing gimick that what you can expect. But I don’t know if p1’s difference from their marketing is any more exaggerated than anyone else. Also I probably need close to 30 Gb so that factor matters to. If I could average 3 Mbps and had very little downtown (99.5% uptime) I will happy.

I have had several 10 or 15 min times already where I was trying to get online and couldn’t. I am hoping that is maybe initial setup issues (though really that doesn’t make much sense which is why I am just hoping). p1 has been good enough that I am passing the 7 day mark without cancelling, hopefully I won’t regret it.

I think I would have gone with Unify. They are a land-line provider which should be more reliable (historically the problem with landlines has been slow customer service and high fees, Unify is meant to address these issues and seems to be doing better on those scores). Unify’s VIP 5 plan offers 5 Mbps download and 60 Gb per month. Really I think if I was smart this is what I should have done. It takes awhile to setup and I think the upfront charges are more. I might even get Unify on top of p1 (just because I am so reliant on the internet to do my job). I really can’t have outages or it can be a serious problem. Probably it would have been smart to get the Unify package and then the a cheaper p1 plan. Oh well, trying to do all the things I have to do to get setup has been pretty stressful, making a few mistakes isn’t so horrible. I’ll just have to earn more money so I can afford to add Unify (or maybe I’ll find just P1 is enough).

P1 does have a portal that lets you see the percentage of your monthly limit (30 GB in my case) you have used. It would be better if they showed your percentage of the time that has gone by also (so you could see I have 67% of my quota left and 80% of the month left – meaning I am in danger of going over). Now I don’t even see something showing you what the day of your billing cycle is. This isn’t a very good way to display the data (but at least they show it to you).

I was impressed with the response on Twitter and the chats on their website have been pretty good. Though I ordered voice (through the chat) based on what turned out to be wrong information. Then I also asked if they were really saying the only way to get your voice mail is to be standing at your phone (because that is what they seemed to say). It seems pretty lame if I couldn’t get my voice mail when I was out of the house. There is no contract so I can cancel at any time (I wouldn’t have signed up if there was). And the person just never responded at all. So that customer service wasn’t so great.

P1 is also available in Kuala Lumpor, Penang and elsewhere. Overall it seems to get fairly good marks compared to the other wireless broadband providers but truthfully it is hard to find much of a certainty of which providers are best. And really what will matter to most people is you local area (p1 seems very good in JB and I think KL and Penang too). And going by my memory P1 offered the highest bandwidth allowances for the price (which was important for me).

P1 offers a portable broadband modem as part of the package (RM30 a month extra after 3 free months). I doubt I will keep this once I have to pay for it but I am maybe going to try it out. At least I took the modem so I can try it if I have time. If you travel a good deal it might very well be useful (with slow hotel wifi). Also if you car pool or something it might be useful – I think I have read people saying it works well in area like KL while driving (but I might not remember that correctly).

Update, 3 days later – Speeds were quit good for several days – Above 3, even 4 Mbps frequently. On the bad news front, the network has now been down for nearly 10 hours. On the interesting news front (to me anyway) the “wiggy” portable broadband modem has been working during the network outage on my main modem (I had to go to the mall to download the application for a mac [the device seems to have the windows software, but mac software has to be downloaded], so I only have tried in for the second half of the outage, and part of the time it did not connect. But for hours it has while my main modem has no service. My understanding is the network is out for most of Johor Bahru, and maybe it is even more widespread than that.

Related: The Treasure Store: Used English Language BooksFinding a Good Condo to Rent in Johor BahruFloating Houses in the Straight Between Johor Bahru and Singapore

Update 25 Sept. 2011: P1’s network in Johor Bahru has been down (as best as I can determine) now for over 2 and a half days (I know my modem has been down for that time). Their web site has absolutely no information. They took down the extremely limited information they used to have. If you go to their website you wouldn’t even know there is a problem. I find hiding such things is a bad sign. Companies that are open and honest when they have problems give a much greater sense of trustworthiness.

The only information provided for 2 1/2 days, of a complete network failure in a large city is a twitter account that says please wait, we are looking into it. The is obviously extremely poor communication. Lately a few tweets seem to say something about users taking their modem to a service center and maybe exchanging them. Obviously this is a big hassle. Will they just let you exchange them where you bought the modem? Nope. Will they deliver the modem to you? Nope. Will they explain anything about the current status? Nope. Obviously choosing to use a company with this attitude to customer service is extremely risky. Do so knowing how they chose to behave during this extremely long term, extremely widespread network failure.

The government has an online form to file a complaint about internet service issues. Malaysia is trying to develop a internet business community so there is a desire to maintain high quality internet services. Some people seem to say this can help get results or refunds, I don’t have experience with that myself yet.

Update 26 Sept. 2011: a bit less than 3 days later my modem is working again.

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