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By the numbers: P1 4G vs Yes 4G

A couple of weeks back, P1 together with ZTE organised a demonstration to showcase the capabilities of LTE in Malaysia. This strikes us as rather odd because since its inception P1 has been a strong proponent of WiMAX.

Its CEO, Michael Lai, has often been quoted as saying that P1 “will live and die with WiMAX” and that LTE stands for “late to evolve” rather than long-term evolution aggressively campaigning that WiMAX is the superior technology.

Why the sudden change then? Why condemn a technology and then flip 180 to adopt it? Could it be that P1 is having difficulties in getting its WiMAX network to work the way that they want it? Or are they looking for an edge to get a one up over its closest rival, Yes 4G? Or is it simply a case of the CEO making a bold statement without the benefit of foresight?

Whatever the reason may be, the message is clear, P1’s open demonstration of LTE marks a significant shift in the operator’s strategy, whatever that strategy may be.

Speaking of strategies, while the Government’s move to offer WiMAX in Malaysia has generally been seen as a bold step forward, most of the operators in which it has entrusted with the WiMAX spectrum have faltered. Out of the original four operators that were offered a WiMAX spectrum by the government, only two remain — P1 and Yes.

Between these two operators, which one is leading the 4G race? We attempt to answer this question by looking at the numbers.

P1 has long proclaimed that it is the leading WiMAX operator in the country. Having being the first WiMAX operator to offer its services to the public, there is no denying that they are pioneers in this field but its leadership proposition is not as clear.

Network coverage is one of the main pillars of success for any mobile operator and despite having a two year lead over Yes, P1’s 45% population coverage is much less than its competitor’s (Yes claims to have 65% population coverage). It is also important to mention here that coverage quality is also an important aspect and in this respect, we’ve often find ourselves able to effortlessly log on to Yes in more places than P1.

Where Yes really shines is with its in building coverage. In building penetration — or the lack of it — is a well-known issue with WiMAX networks but it seems that Yes has managed to overcome this.

Almost always when we are deep inside a building and not expecting to get any reception from the Yes network, we were pleasantly surprised. Not only can we connect to the internet with Yes in rooms where there are no windows but the performance is good as well.

In addition to this, Yes has data coverage spanning almost the entire length of the North-South Expressway — an amazing feat by any standard. So that’s a point for Yes.

Score: P1 — 0 | Yes — 1

P1 is the only wireless network operator in the country (irrespective of technology) that has yet to offer seamlessly mobile connectivity. While P1 claim that they are offer mobile broadband, the truth is their service should be more accurately referred to as nomadic.

This means so long as you’re within the coverage area of a base station, you are able to move around in that coverage area and still get connectivity. If you hop from one base station to the next, like when you’re traveling in a car for example, you will find that the connectivity will drop as you move from one base station to another.

Yes, does not have this problem. Its network is able to deliver seamless mobility from one base station to the other to give users an uninterrupted date stream.
Notch another point for Yes.

Score: P1 — 0 | Yes — 2

In terms of devices, both operators are pretty evenly matched, each offering a USB dongle, a home gateway and a 4G MiFi. In addition to this, Yes also offers a 4G mobile phone and has mentioned that they are working on an Android smartphone that will be launched later this year. P1 on the other has a range of WiMAX enabled notebooks and netbooks in their device arsenal.

Going into specifics, speaking from our own experience, we feel that the Yes USB dongle is better in terms of design and ease of use because unlike the bulky P1 equivalent, the Yes USB dongle is slim and comes with a USB head that pivots to accommodate various USB port configurations.

In comparison, the P1 USB dongle is much bigger and is connected using a USB cable, which can be a bit of a hassle when you want to get connected in a jiff.

But this is our own opinion and it’s a subjective matter as some might prefer using the cable instead, so we will give a point to each.

Score: P1 — 1 | Yes — 3

In addition to wireless broadband, both operators offer voice services as well but this where the similarities end. While P1’s voice service is fixed and limited to its home gateway users, Yes’ voice service is mobile and can be used across all the devices that it offers.

On top of that, Yes has developed an application that you can download for free called Yes Life. What this application does is it allows you to make and receive phone calls and SMS from your PC. The application also allows you to store your contacts in a cloud address book where it is accessible from any PC with Yes Life installed. You can also access this cloud-based address book from the Yes Buzz mobile phone.

Yes also offers a web-based email account and calendar client simply called Yes Mail. All this services are offered for free.

It doesn’t stop there. With Yes you can use one account to connect to multiple devices. For example with just one account can connect to the Yes USB dongle, the Yes MiFi and home gateway to go online simultaneously. You can even connect multiple device of the same kind using one account. Meaning one account can access the internet using two Yes USB dongles on two separate computers at the same time.

One scenario where this is useful is when you’re a family man with kids who have their own computers. It’s possible for you to give each a Yes USB dongle but have them all connected to one account with means you don’t have to pay multiple monthly fees for each device.

With P1, each device is tied to its own separate account. Meaning, if we take the above scenario as a example, father who buys separate P1 USB dongles for his children would have to pay for separate monthly accounts, one for each dongle which means additional cost.

So in terms of services, we’ll give a point to Yes.

Score: P1 — 1 | Yes — 4

Plans and Packages
If we calculate based on data usage alone this is where P1 outshines Yes, offering one of the cheapest bulk data rates in the country. But if you take into account that Yes has the potential to combine your home and mobile data and to a certain extent, your mobile phone accounts all in one, the argument for P1 is not as strong.

Having said that, we feel that most will use Yes for data at the moment so we will evaluate Yes in that respect. In addition, with its pay-per-use model Yes is not a service that heavy downloaders will use because even with rebates and valuepacks that offer data at a discounted rate, it’s difficult to match against the big quota low price offering of P1.

But before you consider it a close and shut case, we must point out that Yes allows you to carry forward all your unused data, talk time, SMS indefinitely. For example if you’ve purchased a RM68 valuepack which gives you 3.5GB of data, 150 minutes of talk time and 150 SMS, and you only use 1GB of data for that month, you can carry forward all the unused data, talk time and SMS to the next month and the month after that, provided you continue purchasing valuepacks each month. If you fail to continue to purchase a valuepack, you will lose all your accumulated data, talk time and SMS.

For low to medium users this is a great feature as it gives them the flexibility to use the data, talk time and SMS that they’ve purchased to the fullest, so we’ll give one point each.

Score: P1 — 2 | Yes — 5

At the end of the day
And that brings us to a final tally of P1 — 2 and Yes — 5.

So in the 4G space, it looks like things are not looking as rosy as it used to for P1. While previously leading in a one-horse race, P1 now have Yes to contend with. With more coverage, a better network, mobile data and voice plus multi-device connectivity using one account, there is a lot to like about Yes but it is not without its flaws.

Yes’ pay-per-use model is unattractive to heavy users and its customer service still needs a lot of work to get right, but even with these flaws in mind Yes delivers where it matters most and that is in its performance.

So in that respect and based on our own user experience, we feel that Yes is the better 4G operator. In fact, when it comes to mobile data, Yes probably is one of the best service providers out there.

Not bad for a brand that’s not even six months old.