22 Nov 2012
Here what I used in my trip to Malaysia in Nov2012, in case others find this helpful:
- In the US, buying a cellphone “out-of-contract” is not the same as buying a cellphone “unlocked”. All of the following only works for an unlocked phone. Make sure your phone is unlocked before you get on the plane.
- Different cellphone companies have different policies on this. AT&T declared that, despite my being a multi-year customer, with no contract, they would not unlock my phone per policy. T-Mobile said upfront that they would need ~40days from date-of-purchase of “out-of-contact” phone before I could ask to have it unlocked. On the 40th day, when I asked T-Mobile to unlock my phone, they sent me the phone unlock codes within 48hours.
- Make sure your phone supports GSM. Sounds obvious, but still needs to be said, as most countries use GSM.
- NOTE: You need to show your passport, or national ID card, when buying a pay-as-you-go SIM, or a phone, in Malaysia.
- Buy a “HotLink” pay-as-you-go SIM card. I bought mine at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, but they are also for sale on most small street corner stores. While there are several mobile companies selling pay-as-you-go, I went with HotLink because they had the best price for data at 4G-LTE speeds, great high speed coverage everywhere I went, and no hassle about using your cellphone as a hotspot. Oh, and comparable prices for voice calls and text messaging.
- Disassemble your phone to swap out sim card, insert new HotLink sim card and power up the phone.
- On the phone, enter “*122#″ and press dial (typically, the green handset button). This will connect you to an automated voice service which will tell you your balance.
- Assuming that works, you should now attempt to call any local number. By habit, I now call the mobile phone of the person at the store selling me the SIM card.
- Cultural tip: I never setup voicemail – as discovered in my other recent trips to SEasia, most people dont both leaving voice messages – if they cant reach you when they phone, they hangup and send you a text message instead.
- At this point you should be able to make/receive calls.
- To make my Android 2.2 phone transmit/receive data, I had to add the following APN settings:
* on home screen, go into “settings”
* go into “wireless & network settings”
* go into “mobile networks”
* go into “access point names”
* if there is not already a “maxis” APN, then create one as follows:
** Name = maxis
** APN == bbnet
** Proxy == 126.96.36.199
** Port == 80
** Username == Not set
** Password == Not set
** Server == Not set
** MMSC == Not set
** MMS proxy == Not set
** MMS port == Not set
** MCC == 502
** MNC == 12
** Authentication Type == Not set
** APN Type == Not set
…hit save, and go back to “Access Point Names”.
- verify that this new “maxis” APK is present, and is selected.
- verify that “Use only 2G networks” is not selected.
- Reboot the phone to see if that helps.
- Now that the phone is configured correctly, I selected the 500mb-per-day data plan, as follows:
enter “*100*9*1#” and press dialer
read menu, enter “2” and click “ok”
read menu, enter “1” and click “ok”
- At this point you should be able to make/receive calls, send/receive text messages, surf the web, and use your cellphone as a wifi hotspot.
- To check your account balance call *122#.
- When you need additional credits, buy a one-time use scratch-refill “top up” card at almost any corner store, and follow the instructions on the back. Alternatively, their website says you can topup using PayPal as well as credit cards, but I never personally tried that. Either way, you’ll receive a text message with the new balance when the credits are added to your account.