4G Coverage – GCC

KuwaitTelecoms

Kuwait is one of the first conutries to roll out full 4G coverage, and we are tough customers, I honestly was very critical and abusing it when possible and it has survived my torment and still it is doing well.

4G in the GCC & UK are the same and I’m assuming the Europe would be the same as UK in regards to 4G specifications. But the coverage across Europe is spotty at best. I was in Germany and drove a good amount outside and inside of Frankfurt to see how it works, then there was Amsterdam which we extensively used their network. The connections weren’t that great, and sometimes very disappointing, surprisingly Amsterdam was much better then Frankfurt in terms of coverage.

4G Coverage in Kuwait is fantastic in comparison to Europe, it seems that Europe has fallen back in comparison to us. Our terrestrial data speeds are a disappointment in Kuwait and improvement does’t look like it will happen any time soon, they have been talking about Fiber for the good part of a decade now. But due to this lack of development the wireless data providers have stepped in and so 4G such as Zain, Viva, and Soon to be Wataniya are providing for what the customers are asking for.

Kuwait is even better then the UAE in this aspect, Etisalat has coverage but the speeds are honestly crap and even much worse when you head out of Dubai with little to no coverage, and Du is worse then Etisalat in this regard. It seems that we are more then a step ahead of Europe and Kuwait is leading the pack in GCC. And I have yet to see someone in the GCC to match our coverage and overall speeds, we are spoiled and I honestly hope we have more developments in regards to wireless & LTE internet.

Link: Flickr

BBM – The Barren Wasteland

Last year and the year before RIM was struggling, now they are just a sinking ship, when a few years before that it was everywhere like wildfire, everyone had a Blackberry. I still kept mine because of our Dewaneya being on it, and honestly it is still the best group communication App out there, I think they should have sold it off as an App in the App Store and Android Market, it would have helped sustain Blackberry on the software side.

They held on for so long and still RIM didn’t turn around at all, and a lot of people got fed up with it, they even switched to Android because some people didn’t want Apple. The whole of 2011 didn’t change anything for RIM, and Android & Apple just kept coming up with more updates and better handsets. People started shifting, it feels odd when people start leaving your contact list, at first its normal but then it just got ridiculous, floods of people disappeared. It was honestly sad some of these people were gone, it was nice to to star in touch with them. To be honest up to this point there isn’t an application that is better then BBM and nothing beats a good Qwerty keyboard but they had their problems and they didn’t progress. We are still stuck with the 10 MB which is pretty much useless when roaming, it gets used up in two or three days at most. I don’t know why but it feels like I was abandoned when I see the status update “BBM OFF – WhatsAPP +965##$##$##”, as if the person just gave up and left.

Now the migration has begun, very few people are left on Blackberry, I’m still holding on to it and using it when I can. I’m not a fan of WhatsApp even though pretty much everyone shifted over to it. I tried ChatON and a few other Apps they weren’t that great either. I think I’m probably going to stick to it until this piece of hardware quits, then I don’t think I will be getting another Blackberry until I see some drastic changes in the coming future.

Companies & Social Media In Kuwait

Over the last year and half a lot of companies and specifically telecom companies have gotten heavily into all types of social media. They are active on blogs, in events, facebook, and twitter and other platforms that they can expand on. I’m honestly proud that these companies see the value of social media in Kuwait and its strength, we are ahead in the region on this aspect and we keep moving forward which is a good thing.

It feels like more companies are taking social responsibility and they are giving people more direct access to them and it helps resolve issues. Also it does expose them to more criticism which most companies don’t like, and there are those who don’t care at all. Now a lot of companies, especially the Telecom companies have been sponsoring blogs which is a good step, it supports the community and it gives them an air of legitimacy. But then also brought another creature to evolve which are the Blogs For Cash movement, they make blogs just to sell off ad space and make money, and usually they don’t last too long or their content is crap but still they keep popping up.

Now Telcos are getting more and more involved with lots of events, I keep seeing people post about them and I do get invited but 99% of the time I don’t have time to go and other 1% I would rather do other things. They are handing out iPhones like they are candy and pretty much the next hot item, which is great and good for people to review and experience their service. But recently a lot of these gifts and sponsorship come with strings, string that I for one would never accept. At this point they tell you can talk about their competitor, you can’t attend their events, and you can’t really bad mouth their products. When the money comes with strings such as those I wouldn’t want it no matter how much they are offering. Whats funny is that recently I have noticed blogs which are Team Zain, or Team Wataniya, or Team Viva some keep trying to buy out the other. In reality it isn’t a bad thing but when they interfere with the content to this degree its unacceptable and its a very bad path they are choosing, some still don’t apply it but some companies are. At the end it is the choice of the blog to make the decision of which sponsor they would like on board.

ISP & Internet Connectivity Kuwait 2012

Over the last year there has been a dramatic change with the telecommunication companies and luckily in Kuwait we have companies changing and increasing their services. I have had extensive experience with several companies over the past 18 months, some have been very good, some have been bad, and some disastrous. These are my rankings based on my experience, data usage, and customer service. I have left out pricing since all the wired companies are offering the same price and the rest can be found out easily. This isn’t a comparison based on price but based on experience and service level. I broke down the categories into two, one is based totally on speed and connectivity, and the other is based on interaction with the sales and customer support.

WIRED
Data Connectivity

  • Fasttelco
  • Qualitynet
  • Kems
  • GulfNet

Customer Service

  • Fasttelco
  • QualityNet
  • Kems/GulfNet

Comments: Fasttelco has improved vastly over the last few years and what I like is that they keep trying to improve their customer service and improving themselves technically. QualityNet has gotten complacent since they got to the top, its like they are full and don’t feel like giving good customer service. Kems is pretty bad in my opinion because they still somewhat constrict usage from what I can see, and they insulted customers directly last year, complete slander and that is the worst for a company. GulfNet is still at the bottom of the barrel I don’t know how anyone can sign up with them, zero customer service and they blatantly lie about their services. Prices have been unified and connection speed is based on government services and not the ISPs, they can only work with what they have so really its based on consistent speed and customer service.

WIRELESS
Data Connectiivty

  • WIMD
  • MADA

Customer Service

  • WIMD
  • MADA

Comments: WIMD is brand new company but overall my experience has been very good with them even though its only been a few weeks. I hope they continue to maintain their services and speeds as they currently are, right now I am very happy with them. Right now their install schedule seems to be very slow since they were overwhelmed with requests from people but I think if you are patient with them you will be happy you installed their services. MADA was a great service when it initially started and they are genuinely trying to maintain their services, and for 20KD a month its relatively cheap for 10 MB but in reality you are getting a range from 2MB to 7MB these days. They got too many subscribers and their main towers are too sensitive in regards to your location, you have to be next to the window to get full signal and 2KM from the tower to get any speed, and any modification on their part can affect your speed drastically. Overall I think they are very good and hope that they improve their services.

MOBILE
Data Connectivity

  • Viva
  • Zain
  • Wataniya

Customer Service

  • Zain/Wataniya
  • Viva

Comments: There has always been a scuffle going on between the three mobile providers in Kuwait, they are always in competition which is good for us. Over the last two years there has been some drastic changes in regards to services in the data field. When it comes to Voice Wataniya would be ranked by far at the top, then its Zain, and if you can get in more then 20 seconds into a phone call with Viva I would be surprised. When it comes to Data Viva threw all their money at it and have one of the best data networks, with Zain and Wataniya trailing behind them. Wataniya and Zain need to upgrade their data networks to deploy something faster and better reaching, and I hope at some point they both remove their Data Caps but I can understand it. As for Viva they got a lot of people to sign contracts and join them up with the unlimited package only to enforce a data cap and change the contracts without notification which is illegal in my opinion, I’m surprised nobody sued them.

Messed Up International Calls

What the hell is going on with Phone lines in Kuwait. I just came to accept that when people call into to Kuwait the call quality is usually crap, but when you call out you get a decent line. Over the last few years for some reason the lines have gotten worse, and lately most of the time when someone calls me from overseas I get some random 222#####, very rarely is it with the caller ID and sometimes its a 5 digit number like 29268. Now recently over the past two weeks I have gotten some strange caller ID numbers which start with 9982#### or 9878####. Now it seems that some Zain lines are being used as Voip numbers, I’m sure that it isn’t Zain doing this because all international lines in Kuwait are controlled by the Government for the most part, if they know they have control over it. Seriously, when someone calls me from abroad I would like to know who it is.

Viva Online Marketing

Recently Viva have been tackling more and more online marketing, pretty much all of the telecom companies are seeing the value of social networking and blogs in Kuwait and its a very nice thing the Big Three are doing. Recently over the past year Viva seemed to be aggressive about gaining online coverage getting more and more blogs but what I find to be restrictive about their sponsorship. If you are sponsored by Viva you can’t cover any social networking event by the other telecom companies, and you can’t cover new product details of the other company. This is when I think that advertising isn’t worth it when there are restrictions of these kinds attached to it.

Update: Wataniya & Zain do not have that policy, they are fairer in the way they do business.

Viva Data Caps – Sucks!

VivaSucks

In the last 24 hours Viva has applied data caps all its internet “Unlimited” package. It used to be the favored internet connectivity for people and companies. With these Caps it has become useless, people don’t realize the amount of data used when your surfing sites like Youtube or gaming online. Thankfully I’m dependent on the Fasttelco and Kems for my gaming and Downloading needs, and during that time of the crazy dust storms Viva was great but with these Data Caps Viva are now down in the dumps, no reason to keep the subscription, time to end the subscription.

Data Caps:

  • 2GB per Day – I already hit that right away
  • 60GB per Month

Viva 21MB vs Zain 21MB vs Viva 7MB vs Fasttelco 2MB

Viva7MB

Viva 7.2MB Connection

All these speeds and insanity just keeps getting confused, nothing is really true until you get it in your location and do some testing. So I had a chance to try out all of the above and I had some surprising results, keeping in mind that Fasttelco is a 2MB Wimax Connection and not a landline connection.

Fasttelco2MB

Fasttelco 2MB Connection

Fasttest Connection:

  • Viva 7.2 MB
  • Fasttelco 2MB
  • Viva 21MB
  • Zain 21MB

Viva21MB

Viva 21MB Connection

Most Constant/Stable Connection:

  • Fasttelco 2MB
  • Viva 7.2MB
  • Viva 21MB
  • Zain 21MB

Zain21MB

Zain 21MB Connection

Those were some surprising results and you can see from download screenshots, and this is in Mishref, it could be different in other areas. Some people told me the best connection is the 21MB Viva connection in the city.

Google Nexus One with Zain, Wataniya, & Viva

GoogleNexusOne

Voice Coverage:

  • Zain is good, except for those dropped calls at quite a few locations
  • Wataniya has good coverage, a few problem areas but overall good
  • Viva seems to go from bad to spotty coverage, pretty much the worst of the bunch

With the new Google Phone its a very Data oriented phone with lots of different services and integrated items that require constant data usage. You can manually configure the APN details so that you can access 3G/Edge of your network. The biggest adopter and advertiser of Google Android phones currently is Viva, the other operators haven’t adopted Android Phones yet. Now the surprising part is this, I have used my Google Phone with Zain and Wataniya, the settings work automatically and I’m on the 3G network right away downloading data and it transfers to a wireless network that it recognizes if it connected to it previously. It puts the priority on normal wireless if its available before using 3G/Edge. Now the surprising part is Viva, the settings don’t download right away, speaking to the technical staff they run you in circles and they don’t even know. I even tried explaining to them the exact details but I honestly couldn’t get a coherent answer from them. With Wataniya and Zain they knew exactly what I was talking about and they provided me the APN settings and the exact details, IPs, and ports. Overall for voice services in Kuwait you either go with Wataniya Telecom or Zain.

Viva – Blackberry

Now that they have all launched Blackberry its interesting to compare all the services. I will be doing that at a later point but Viva packages seems interesting, they went for the idea of more expensive packages, but they are quite interesting.

  • BB 15 KD – 200MB Local – Pay as you go for International
  • BB 25 KD – 1 GB Local – 20 MB International
  • BB 44 KD – Unlimited Local – Unlimited International

One other note you can switch between these plans at any point in time without any contractual problems, if you traveling you can take BB 44 and if you are just in Kuwait you can switch it back to BB 25.

I have to say that they give you a better bang for your buck for the packages, unlike Zain. I think Zain might lose a few customers if they don’t offer more value. I for one only use my BB for data and connectivity usages, not really calling people from this phone so switching to Viva does seem very appealing. The idea of having unlimited data is unprecedented for international use and never has been offered before, and that looks very appealing.

Link: Viva