STC, Mobily or Zain

Old Jun 2nd 2015, 2:12 am
  #1  
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Default STC, Mobily or Zain

Hi everyone, I am new to the Sand pit.

This post is regarding PREPAID mobile internet and mobile phone in KSA.

I'm choosing between main operators (STC, Mobily, Zain).

I'd like to know your experiences using prepaid services in KSA (especially if you've used more than one service to compare the pros/cons).

I will be in a medium sized city (Hofuf) where 4G may not be available, however 3G for both phone and internet should be working. I won't know for sure till I get there.

For mobile internet (usb stick, mobile wifi, or plugin router) are the 3 connection technologies. Have you noticed much difference between them? Or is more a matter of location, luck... ?

I intend to use internet with personal laptop only. I don't have any devices.

I will also have to get a VPN, but i will make a separate post about that.

I am mostly interested in unlimited Gigabytes/month. I know unlimited means 30, 50 or 60GB/month, that's more than enough. However, i will settle for 20GB/month as a minimum.

I mostly use the internet for Youtube, media downloads and extensive surfing. No social media.

Note: The speed of downloads or time required to load pages isn't as important for me as the stability of the connection. I don't mind waiting for tabs to open as long as they open. I often open many tabs.

Some of the annual prepaid internet offers provide great discounts. But, i don't want to commit for one year with a company I don't know yet.

As for the phone, local SMS is the only service I use in great frequency. I'd like to have unlimited SMS every month or a very low per SMS rate. I don't need data on the phone. I make rare voice calls in emergencies.

No roaming, or international necessary. I use Skype for that.

I have an unlocked triband Nokia bought in Australia a couple years ago (however it's NOT a smartphone). I think it's GSM 850 / 1900 / 2100. I prefer to avoid buying a new phone. Also, package bundles with services I don't need (like voice, data and sms combos). I just need the sms.

Anyways, i think that's enough information to get started.

So, what do you think? Based on the above information, would you choose STC, Mobily or Zain?
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Old Jun 3rd 2015, 9:29 am
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Default Re: STC, Mobily or Zain

ask you neighbours which is best for your specific location...as for vpn I use the zenmate plugin for chrome...works a treat and its free
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Old Jun 3rd 2015, 1:02 pm
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Default Re: STC, Mobily or Zain

A mate living there says Zain or Mobily
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Old Jun 3rd 2015, 4:05 pm
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Default Re: STC, Mobily or Zain

Zain for mobile phone?
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Old Jun 4th 2015, 7:47 pm
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Default Re: STC, Mobily or Zain

STC all the way for me. Better coverage and clear price plans.

Had a lot of bad experience with Mobily, where they took my money and never gave me the service I ordered saying I did not follow the right options for online renewal of a 4g package. Aparently its a common issue and even after calling them many times they refused to accept responsibility.
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Old Jun 4th 2015, 10:41 pm
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Default Re: STC, Mobily or Zain

You haven't had issues with STC?
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Old Jun 7th 2015, 1:17 am
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Default Re: STC, Mobily or Zain

I have been using STC for both prepaid phone and data (mainly data, so that is what I will talk about).

Hardware:
For Data I bought a Huawei E5372 MiFi type router which I am very happy with (previously used an unlocked T-Mobile "4G" Sonic router here which is really 3.5G).
They were selling the E5372 unlocked (Mobily branding) for about 400SR
(There are two models. One with suffix "T" has thicker battery - said to be Ten hours as opposed to Six).

Performance
One advantage of STC is that I understand their unlimited plans truly are unlimited (unlike the others).... and I have used it so heavily - I haven't been paying attention as the router resets the data counter from time to time but I have seen it reading the hundreds of GB.
Coverage in Al-Khobar has been good though sometimes there seem to be reductions or downtime at night and some slow down at busy times in the evenings. I see a number of cell masts near here are standalone mobile ones powered off a generator so it is possible that sometimes they malfunction or are serviced and that could explain some of these issues.

Now one thing I have never really understood is that there seemed to be two sets of data plans. I was buying the cheaper one, and I am wondering if it was really meant to be 4G. I was paying about 350SR for three months unlimited, or 150SR for one month.
About three days ago my router changed from displaying a 4G connection to displaying a 3G one. Doesn't seem to matter where I go, whether I reboot etc. it has changed to 3G.
Current speedtests seem to be showing 18Mbps download, 1.1Mbps upload and 49ms pings.
Still seems reasonable for video (Youtube etc.)

[My house came with Jood Internet which I used for a short time. I understand this is a DSL service and has better latency (good for gamers) but I think perhaps poorer throughput than the mobile WiFi.]
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Old Jun 7th 2015, 2:08 pm
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Default Re: STC, Mobily or Zain

For me - Mobily on all counts.
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Old Jun 7th 2015, 11:19 pm
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Default Re: STC, Mobily or Zain

STC seems like what I need for occasional video skyping, daily youtube streaming and extensive tabbed browsing. These are the most important.

A lot of people have so far recommended the STC unlimited prepaid for 3 months at 300SAR. Also the Huawei Mifi has been mentioned a few times. Is this not included in the 300SAR for 3 months? I have to buy the MIFI separately for 400SAR? Can't I just lease it for the three months?

One issue is location, i am NOT going to be using internet in a big city. Instead, a medium sized city in the middle of the desert. Location and sandstorms may result in delayed or no connection. Will a STC connection be able to muddle through in these conditions?

On the issue of changing from 4G to 3G, perhaps this is a built in feature of months of service. Meaning, they offer the better service for new customers. 18Mbps is good, isn't it?

My new house is going to be a single furnished private apartment. There is already Internet there but I have been warned it's basic. I will need to supplement for personal use. I'm also not a gamer.

By 4G boxes, do you mean plugged in router?

I also download in moderate amount so I can connect to a separate Zain overnight. But for Zain, should I also use MIFI or the smaller USB stick?
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Old Jun 8th 2015, 12:18 am
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Default Re: STC, Mobily or Zain

First thing to say is I discovered another source of info which might be worth scanning first - if I am allowed to post the link here:
Telecommunications in Riyadh
(I guess much the same applies in other places in KSA)
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Old Jun 8th 2015, 12:42 am
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Default Re: STC, Mobily or Zain

Thanks! Some of the information I posted for you is from there.
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Old Jun 8th 2015, 12:48 am
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Default Re: STC, Mobily or Zain

Secondly:
1. Assume nothing about the connectivity in your proposed location. You may be able to find some coverage maps online... but cellular coverage often differs between places and times so the safest thing might be to get there first or ask someone who is already there.
2. Skype - as at the link posted above. There seem to be some measures to slow Skype down. I find Skype to landline in UK is very bad and unusable - often I am not heard and it usually disconnects in the first minute. That is enough of a ping to let the other side know to turn on their computer. Skype to PC works (to China and UK) but video is poor - I basically don't use it. Even voice can be poor, though mostly tolerable. Funny thing is since I got downgraded to 3G I started the voice quality almost seems better. Video remains poor.
4. Others are reporting VPN solves the problems. My VPN stopped working on the PC (second time) and I haven't debugged it yet but the IOS version is still working for me. (Haven't tried it with Skype).
5. WeChat seems quite widely used in the kingdom. Many maids and guest workers use it and some Saudis. You might be surprised by some of the things you see there when viewing people nearby, though I wouldn't suggest pushing the envelope yourself. It may work better than Skype. [We can be pretty sure that Skype is watched by the "Five Eyes" alliance. I also assume WeChat is watched by the Chinese government. Both may well share with the Saudis]
6. The 4G routers come both in conventional in-home types and in the small mobile ones like the E5372. The E5372 supports up to 10 WiFi connections (in theory). I have no trouble with 3-4 at a time (haven't tried more). When I did also have it connected to the PC via the USB port I seemed to sometimes have hangs. Some sellers advertise it as supporting 11 connections (10 WiFi and one USB) but others not. I suspect it may not behave well if you use both WiFI and USB at once.
7. You can get the router as a package with the SIM and a pre (or post) paid plan. However, in that case I think you will find the router is locked to the ISP.
The STC options seem to be at STC - QUICKnet Packages

I don't have any experience of Zain although a colleague had recommended them to me for phone - as I remember he seemed to think it worked more seamlessly when roaming in Bahrain (I never mastered roaming in Bahrain... I haven't been there much. I think STC allows you to buy temporary coverage there).

[As for my slow down to 3G. I suspect my usage was just so high that I got restricted. I really can't complain given how much I have used.]
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