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Mobile data in Malaysia is more affordable than you think


If you’re frustrated with how expensive your data plan is, or if you feel cheated by some mobile operators who claim to give you more Internet but limits usage to certain times of the day, we understand your pain. If you’ve been envying our neighbours in Indonesia, who are paying nearly half of what we pay for 1GB of data, we feel you too.

But, if you’re thinking of creating a blog to hate on our mobile carriers, citing examples of how much cheaper data is in our neighbouring countries, you might want to reconsider. This is because based on data collected by website Tech In Asia, we actually have more affordable data — on average, per 1GB — than most countries in Southeast Asia.

In their study, Tech In Asia compiled data from all the Southeast Asian countries and calculated what the typical price of 1GB (in USD) of data was. Then, they looked up the minimum wage of each country, (picking the typical wage of a low-income worker in Brunei, Singapore and Cambodia because they didn’t have an official minimum wage) comparing it with the respective data costs.

Finally, they used that data to estimate how many hours a worker would have to work to be able to afford 1GB of data and arranged the countries according to scale in a nifty infographic. The results of their study are as follows:


Full infographic at the end of this post

From the data, Malaysia is actually doing quite well, finishing within the top 5 of all the countries in SEA for the most affordable data, despite the fact that we’re paying nearly USD1.60 (RM6.88) more than Indonesia and almost USD1 (RM4.30) higher than Vietnam and Myanmar for 1GB of data. Thanks to our higher minimum wage, a Malaysian minimum wage worker would only have to put in 3 hours and 45 minutes of hard work to enjoy 1GB of data.

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We’re still far off from Brunei though, who leads the pack at only 1 hour and 4 minutes of work needed for 1GB of data, despite their data costing USD2.67 (RM11.48) more than Malaysia. The power of a higher income nation eh?

Another interesting bit of information is how incredibly low the price of mobile data in Cambodia is, coming in at a cool USD1.50/GB (RM6.45), sliding them into third place right behind Singapore despite their minimum wage being only USD0.66 (RM2.84) per hour.

There is only one cause for concern: The accuracy of this data. Let’s take Malaysia for example. Based on the infographic, we average USD4.42 per 1GB of data, which is roughly equivalent to RM19/GB. Are our plans that expensive?

Let’s take a look at the current prepaid data plans being offered by our Telcos:

RM60 for 4.5GB = RM13.3/GB
RM40 for 2.5GB = RM16/GB
RM30 for 1.5GB = RM20/GB


RM48 for 4GB = RM12/GB
RM30 for 2GB = RM15/GB
RM10(per week) for 500MB = RM20.49/GB


RM88 for 7GB(+500MB) = RM11.75/GB*
RM68 for 5GB(+500MB) = RM12.39/GB*
RM48 for 3GB(+500MB) = RM13.76/GB*
RM30 for 1.5GB(+500MB) = RM15.09*


RM68 for 5GB = RM13.6/GB
RM30 for 2GB = RM15/GB*
RM52 for 3GB = RM17.3/GB


RM50 for 3GB = RM16.6/GB
RM30 for 1.5GB = RM20/GB
RM25 for 1GB = RM25/GB
RM38 for 1GB = RM38/GB
RM20 for 500MB = RM40.96/GB

*these are currently promotion rates

Across these 18 different plans, the average (mean) cost of 1GB of data in Malaysia is RM18.68, which is pretty close to the average in the data set. Keep in mind the lower average value is likely because of the promotions that are currently active. Hashtag legit information (as far as Malaysia is concerned anyway).

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It’s no secret that we’ve arrived at an era where everyone is obsessed with staying connected. In the past, only moderately large F&B chains offer free WiFi to their customers, but now even mamak shops have “FREE WIFI” signs pasted in and around their establishment. Why? Well, smartphones are getting more and more accessible for the masses and we all know that unless we keep our phones connected to the Internet, they’re little more than 180g bricks.

But, we can’t always rely on WiFi to stay connected. What if we’re on the train? Or in a cab? I mean, we can’t just NOT send that tweet or NOT check if our new Instagram picture broke the 11-like barrier right? That would be absurd. As the citizens flailed about in a chaotic mess, crying out for a saviour, our local telcos came riding in on white stallions offering data plans like food to the hungry.

Those who could afford it rejoiced while others griped about how expensive it was compared to our neighbouring countries — some of which could be considered less developed than we are. The problem with that is when you argue “affordability” based purely on how much a plan costs, you’re leaving other crucial factors like income, development, penetration and even freedom of Internet, out of the equation.

That’s like arguing who’s the best badminton player based purely on how fast their smashes are.

It seems that the folks over at Tech In Asia have had enough of this nonsense and thanks to them, we now have a better understanding (hopefully) of what affordability really means. That said, this chart doesn’t appear to differentiate between connection speeds (4G LTE, 3G, 2G, etc) so that could be another factor affecting cost.

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Stability and coverage could also be another reason for the difference in cost. We’d much rather pay a little more for a wider and more stable data connection.

What do you think of this infographic? Should carriers focus more on reducing cost or improving coverage and stability? Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks to @cruzzmz for the tip!