With travel being a thing again after a very long time, it’s no real surprise that more and more Malaysians are doing just that. Preparations for such things usually also involve coming up with a plan (no pun intended) to deal with mobile data usage while abroad – be it getting a tourist SIM, or activating roaming passes from local telcos. While either option will work fine once you’re on land, you should be very careful (read: not use mobile data at all) while you’re in between borders.
One Lowyat.NET Forum user going by nick1812 shared their account of a mobile phone bill so large that it could actually pay for a new phone. The narrative starts with the purchase of the Maxis 30 days World Unlimited Data pass for RM99. Which is a pretty good start, but things immediately get complicated as the account mentions a cruise tour.
While in international waters, normal data roaming rates usually do not apply, regardless of telco or their provided roaming rates and passes. After all, out there your phone won’t be able to connect to your telco’s partner networks in other countries. Instead, phones will attempt to connect to what is known as the Maritime Communications Partner network, or MCP. And since this uses satellite connections, charges are pretty astronomical to reflect that.
MCP, or Telenor Maritime as it’s now supposed to be known as, provides mobile coverage and internet connectivity at sea. While it’s possible for individual users to connect to its network, as this story indicates, the service is more for the offshore and fishing industry, as well as cruise ships and ferries.
For Maxis specifically, data use when connected to MCP is charged at RM100/MB, while SMS are rated at RM1 per text. Calls vary quite a bit depending on if you’re calling someone else who’s also in international waters, in Malaysia or elsewhere. Which results in nick1812 being confronted with a bill of RM3000, for using a measly 30.01MB of data.
Making things worse than it already is, they probably didn’t get much actual use out of it due to the speed – or lack thereof – of a satellite connection. Not to mention the fact that, while push notifications don’t individually use more than a few KB of data, the number of apps that make use of it can easily compound into a few MB over the course of a single cruise.
To be fair, while overseas travel for holidays are no longer a rarity, going on cruises are still pretty uncommon, at least in comparison. So it’s entirely possible that this was something that was overlooked when preparing for overseas web surfing. On a similar note, it’s also probably something that the less tech-savvy are unaware of.
But say you intend to go on a cruise of your own for an upcoming holiday. What then? Rather than dealing with the MCP rates, it’s probably better to check if the cruise you’ll be on comes with complimentary WiFi access. If not, then you’ll have to check if it’s a service that’s provided separately. As an example, the Genting Dream ship of Resorts World Cruises offers WiFi packages for up to four devices, starting from SG$9 (~RM 30) a night.
While probably less of an issue, you may on occasion find yourself in a similar situation while in a flight. Usually, you’ll be asked to turn your phone off for takeoff and landing, and leave your device in flight mode while in the air. Sometimes you may get in-flight connectivity. If you don’t but for some reason you still want to surf the web, you may get connected to AeroMobile. As it turns out, Maxis also has a roaming agreement with this network, with the costs being more in-line with the telco’s usual roaming charges.
To close, we again would like strongly remind you to be very careful with data roaming, and make sure that you cover all the bases when it comes to where and when your roaming pass actually takes effect. If you’re on a postpaid plan and someone is using a supplementary line, you’ll need to make sure that they are aware of all this as well, lest you end up with a shock of your life in the form of a phone bill.
(Thanks for sharing your story, nick1812.)