[Malaysia] How To Maintain a Malaysian Mobile Number for FREE – Unifi Mobile (BEBAS Prepaid)
- 11 May 2020
- Added information about how to send SMS after exhausting the initial allowance. The answer is: you can’t. You’ll just get charged RM0.10 per SMS after you exhaust your SMS allowance.. which is actually, not bad!
- 9 May 2020
- Added my experience of using the data packs
- Added some additional info on the breakdown of “3GB/LTE” data and “LTE Only” data when purchasing additional packs
I previously wrote about how to maintain a Malaysian mobile number for RM12/year using Yoodo. Here’s how you can maintain one for FREE*
Why the asterisk? Well, of course there are catches.
Firstly, apologies if this feels a bit click baity – there’s no agenda for me to make this click-baity. I get nothing out of this. No referral credit, referral money or anything, but it’s very cheap and it’s also a little hard to quantify exactly, so how much it actually ends up costing can vary. However, if your primary purpose is to maintain a Malaysian mobile number active, this is a fantastic option.
I’ll start by saying that I actually personally use Unifi in Malaysia, so I actually have anecdotes that I can draw my sentiments from.
Firstly, I’ll start with a summary of pros and cons:
Pros of Unifi
- Extremely cheap to maintain a Malaysian mobile number – why? See the next point
- Data/calls/SMS inclusions do not expire (except where specified) – but I’ll elaborate on that in the cons, because there’s also a cost..!
- All top ups and maintenance of the service is done via the mobile@unifi app (is that really that big a pro these days? should be a given, I reckon!)
- Top ups can be purchased via Shopee
- This is a benefit because sometimes Shopee has specific promotions, and if you have Shopee coins, it can be a pretty useful to use them up. It’s quite simple/straightforward to do too
- Roaming is enabled, so it’s arguably even more of a “perfect” overseas plan for maintaining your number than Yoodo, given that it’s almost free to keep it.
- I’ve personally used the roaming in Thailand, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Australia, Singapore – and it was all fine. In fact, the reception feels better overseas than it does in Malaysia!
- I had issues with roaming in Japan – I’m not sure why. I even reached out to Unifi who said there shouldn’t have been an issue, but because I was only there for a short period of time, I did not bother trying to resolve the issue.
- Cheap start-up cost of RM10, and it even includes 3GB data
- Charge of RM0.10 per SMS after exhausting the initial allowance
- To be clear, I previously included the inability to purchase additional SMS allowance as a “con”, but I think it’s actually great that you are charged per SMS (at a fantastic rate!), rather than needing to commit to a bundle/allowance of SMS, especially considering the scarcity with which you would find yourself of needing to send a SMS in the first place.
- If you’re struggling to think of when you might need to send a SMS, think of those times CIMB/Maybank have some sort of competition which requires you to send a SMS to a bunch of random numbers (like 63886? 68886?) with your NRIC + a bunch of random numbers.
- Source: Unifi Customer Support – and this has supposedly been in place since July 2019.
Cons of Unifi
- Requires use of data/calls/SMS once every 90 days to keep the service active, otherwise it will expire
- The per unit cost of data/calls is not necessarily the cheapest. But I’m not recommending Unifi for the value of data/calls – that’s where I would (probably) recommend Yoodo
- Their data network/reception is pretty poor (Yes, I know it’s from 2018 – couldn’t find anything newer). Poorer than UMobile, who seem to have a reputaion for having poor reception throughout Malaysia. I find them fine for making and receiving calls though.
- I would go as far as saying that the quality of Unifi’s data network is so poor that I would not advise it be someone’s primary Malaysian telco for long-term use in Malaysia, and I say this based on my year of using them intermittently, but frequently during my short trips over.
- I believe one of the key factors is that their 4G band is delivered on an obscure band (Band 5/850MHz) which is not commonly used
- This sort of “proves” that UMobile is poor
- For the record, I have also used UMobile in Malaysia, although admittedly, not in a long time. I found UMobile to be fine for my purposes, although I was primarily in urban areas where you would absolutely expect to have a stable and consistent signal
Now onto the important part – how much does it all cost?
Data (No Expiry)
|Data (GB)||Price (RM)||RM/GB|
It’s also important to note that the included data is somehow divided into “3GB/LTE” + “LTE Only”. What is the difference? “3GB/LTE” is also referred to as “Basic/High-Speed Internet”. Honestly, I’m not sure, but from what I can gather, I think “3GB/LTE” refers to the portion of the network that Unifi “borrows” from Celcom. If I am wrong, please feel free to correct me via whatever means you please and I will update this post.
What’s important though is in practice, the additional data you buy, from your perspective, just gives you the amount of data that you have purchased. That means if you buy the 8GB package which is supposedly split into 4GB of 3GB/LTE and 4GB of LTE Only, it is, in practice, just 8GB data.
* = Current promotion where this is being given away for free
On a per GB basis, unsurprisingly, the bulkiest data plan is the cheapest, coming in at RM6.25/GB for 8GB.
Calls by unit price are actually not too expensive either.
I personally haven’t used the shorter term data boosters, so can’t comment on the exact mechanics of it. I have now tried using the weekly unlimited data pack. You are only allowed one data pack at a time, and it lasts exactly one week (to the minute) from the time you purchase it. It is activated immediately upon purchase. The prices on these data packs are quite reasonable, considering it’s unlimited. Your biggest challenge will be the quality of reception.
Unifi is fantastic for frequent but brief visits to Malaysia. I would probably argue that Yoodo is probably still better due to Yoodo‘s much superior quality of reception. I promise I am not saying this because of my Yoodo referral! Haha.
This would be more suitable for someone that lives overseas and just needs a Malaysian SIMs for OTPs (think banking OTPs/TACs), but frequency of visits to Malaysia is a big part of this, as inactivity of 3 months results in disconnection. The cost of data and calls is acceptable. However, the biggest negative by far is the poor quality of the data reception, which unfortunately, there is no real solution for, other than to use another telco. For phone calls, I haven’t had as much of an issue, as the reception issue seems to be a data reception issue.
If losing data reception halfway along the highway is likely to result in you losing hair, I would recommend you use a different telco.
But you know what would really come in handy here? A dual SIM phone, where you could have your number just active on this Unifi SIM, and maybe use Yoodo or an alternative option for your data.