It has been around a week since Viva launched their new service, prepaid (mobile) broadband. After seeing the ads in the press and on the streets, I decided to give them a try, after all for BD10 I’ve got nothing to loose. Before getting into the details, let’s compare the offers of prepaid broadband currently available in Bahrain (along with recharge options, screenshots from their respective sites).
Starter price: BD6
Credit included: Unknown
Starter price: BD30 / 33 (depending on which USB device, mykey1, mykey2 respectively)
Credit included: None
Starter price: BD24
Credit included: Unknown (e-Go device + data line mentioned in starting price, definition of data line?)
Starter price: BD10
Credit included: BD5
As you can see, Viva seems to be the most affordable at the moment. There is the possibility that other providers revamp their prepaid broadband packages to compete with each other. One interesting feature of Viva’s service is that (for 2 months) they allow you to transfer the equivalent amount you recharge to a Viva prepaid number (recharge BD10 get BD10 in credit to transfer to any Viva prepaid number at the same time). The providers above require the use of a USB based modem. Batelco, Zain and Viva rely on HSPA to deliver their service (same technology on mobile phones these days), Menatelecom however relies on WiMax (you can also use their prepaid service with their regular modem / router).
There is also the speed factor to consider, data according to providers’ sites (assuming the prepaid packages):
Batelco: Up to 21Mbps
Menatelecom: Up to 4Mbps
Viva: Up to 7.2Mbps
Zain: Not mentioned on site.
The following review is about Viva. I visited their Zinj branch (located in Al Jazira, Zinj) on a Friday morning. Luckily there was no queue (unlike when they had recently launched…). The sales rep took me through a tour of the service (note: you can transfer only BD4 initially to your number, bug or intenational I don’t know, total credit minus 1 transferable). You can recharge by simply getting one of the Viva prepaid vouchers you buy at stores. The starter pack price is BD10 that includes the USB device (at the time of sign up it was a Huawei E172 USB modem) and BD5 in credit (good for 1GB of transfer). I decided to also get BD15 worth of credit, after all I was running low on my phone! They include a tiny quick start guide to recharge and transfer credit.
Upon reaching home, I went straight away to plug in the device to my computer (Windows 7). I went through the installation of the software and once drivers are up and running the little LED on your device will blink a specific color depending on the type of network it sees (or none). I started recharging using the included voucher + the one I bought and now had 6GB worth of data and BD19 to transfer. Transferring went smoothly, my phone was now happy. I started the connection and started to download, speeds were acceptable it ranged between 80-150ish KB/s (given I didn’t have the best coverage). Once you end your session you can visit the section to check your available transfer, you get the information in the form of a message viewable in the text messages section of the software (remaining data transfer and expiry date).
The ultimate test was to get it working on the move. I plugged it to my netbook (running Jolicloud Linux), the OS detected the device and allowed me to connect without messy configurations. I got into my car (warning do not operate while driving!!!!!) and started streaming music from the Internet (Viva is not blocked by one of the first intelligent music streaming service, if you know which one I’m talking about ). I went all the way to Isa Town with a cut in playback, pretty impressive. On the way back home the connection cut off when I was right over the middle section of one of the new Sitra bridges (I was expecting that for some reason…). I tried it out in different locations (stationary this time), including Juffair and the diplomatic area (Manama), in Manama I was able to get moments of 3g+ connection (blue LED color according to manual), most of the time it was at least HSUPA.
So far it is has not let me down in moments of need, in places where I can’t get a decent WiFi connection with my laptop. Hopefully the service does not get oversubscribed and Viva keeps up the good work. Given the price and quality so far, I highly recommend it.