Review: Viva Bahrain Broadband Service

​Edit​As of August 2012 it seems like Viva are once again throttling the already throttled speed once you go over your limit. You will have a few gigs at 512Kbps before getting dropped down to 128Kbps.

Edit: As of January 2012 it seems like Viva is not throttling the throttled speed mentioned towards the end of the review (the 512Kbps throttle speed going down to 128Kbps after going over a certain amount).

Here comes review 2 of the Internet services I have tried. After having some problems with Menatelecom's myKey service and requiring one of their technicians to have a look at the device for something that is probably fixable over the phone, I decided to give Viva's service a try. I am not unfamiliar with Viva's Internet service, since I have reviewed their prepaid broadband service before. This time I was going to try their "unlimited" broadband service that goes upto 42Mbps.

Viva is probably the ISP I have seen take the "upto" claim for real. This was further enforced when I was at their stand signing up for the service, the manager jokingly said "it isn't 42Mbps it is up to 42Mbps!". I had an idea of what to expect taking into account what others have mentioned about the service. The service they provide is over their mobile network which is the newest one in Bahrain and probably the one with most coverage (thanks to 400 base stations). The Internet service provided by Viva is basically the same regardless of what package you decide to take, the only different is how much you can download before getting capped. The device is what gives you the speeds they advertise. I decided to go all out and spoil myself with their 42Mbps device which is a Huawei e372. The price is BD40 if you take it with a 1 year contract (early termination fee between BD30 and BD50 depending which month of service you terminate), or BD100 with no contract. Alternatively you may get one of the other devices they have. Compared to the prepaid's Huawei e172 it is quite big and somehow feels like it has a better build quality (oh and it is shiny!). The image below might give you an idea (e372 on top, e172 bottom):

Like most of these Internet dongles, all the software you need is inside the device, you just plug it in and it appears as a USB flash drive. Another advantage is that it works well on popular Linux distributions. On Ubuntu, it worked out of the box using Gnome's network manager, on Debian however, I needed some help from the famous Sakis3G script. You do lose some features between Windows and Linux: access to advanced diagnostics, sending and receiving SMS (Viva send bill reminders through it) and a decent (slightly innacurate) connection statistics tool. There are probably tools out there for Linux that take care of these extras but I didn't bother looking. The main interface (below) and statistics area (under the main interface) of the connection manager looks like this:

As you can see above, the lower left corner of the main interface lets you know if you are synched (not connected), to a 2G (aka EDGE) or 3G (WCDMA, HSPA, HSPA+, DC-HSPA+). Once you get connected you may get the highest network possible which is DC-HSPA+:

I was actually surprised to know that Viva's DC-HSPA+ network (aka 42Mbps network) was still being rolled out since I had been getting the DC-HSPA+ network no matter where I tried! Good news is that they have completed upgrading their whole network to support the new technology recently. But don't expect to see that 42Mbps speed 😉 since it depends on may factors: signal, weather, how many users connected, overall network capacity and of course what you are wearing :-P. For the record, the highest speed I ever got using the 42Mbps network was around 22Mbps (what their network originally supported), on a Friday morning (the equivalent of Sunday here) and in the Diplomatic Area (busy business center on weekdays, ghost town during weekends). The average speed I got was around 14Mbps, depending on location and time, peak time would fluctuate anywhere between 5Mbps and 14Mbps. Upload speeds are also pretty good, I would hit a few Mbps easily.

Update: Here is a recent speed test in the same conditions mentioned above (just slightly less than 22Mbps).

So what is bad about the service? Apart from the fact that it is an "up to" service the speed you get is quite good. However, the "unlimited" package is capped at 60GB of data transfer. Once you hit it you get capped at 512Kbps, still not that bad right? Go a few GBs on that capped 512Kbps connection and you will get knocked down to 128Kbps!!!

For a person that relies on the Internet for just about everything, accessing content on a 128Kbps connection is like hell on Earth! This is the relevant section on Fair Usage Policy (FUP) on their website at the time of writing, as you can see it mentions nothing about the speed you would expect:

I remember a while ago it used to show that the speed will be throttled to 512Kbps. Using one of those site caching websites I dug up what that "Terms and Conditions" section used to look like:

The star on the second point of their previous terms and conditions lead to a tiny fine print at the bottom of the same page with the following:

/StartHypocrisy Those bloody file sharers downloading large files!!! /EndHypocrisy

I decided to give customer support a call, which in my opinion are the best compared to those I tried recently, thinking 128Kbps means something was wrong. I was told that anything between 128Kbps and 512Kbps is normal, since the throttle is "up to" 512Kbps. I was reassured that a few Kbps would mean that something is wrong… It sucks being capped at 128Kbps before the middle of the month…

Verdict: Viva's broadband service is pretty good and has much better coverage than, for example, Menatelecom (178 base stations only). However, given that they do not mention that you may get capped at 128Kbps since it is "up to" 512Kbps, I would knock off more than a star for that alone. After the first month of usage I am seriously thinking of paying that termination fee or waiting for another month to pay a (slightly) lower ETF. The last sentence will pave the way to the third Internet service I have just signed up for, from a familiar provider :-D…! One which I hope will not fail me.

15 thoughts on “Review: Viva Bahrain Broadband Service”

  1. Yeah VIVA is pretty useless after you pass your bandwidth limit. I currently use VIVA due to the need for something ultra easy for moving houses (we move around a lot).

    If you want a good provider for that issue, I’d suggest Lightspeed. They’re a good provider as long as everything is working and they have good support in your neighborhood.

    If they don’t have good wiring in your area, expect horrible speeds, but if they do have good wiring, then you’ll get blazing fast stable DSL. Sure it’s not as fast as 3G, but you get the stability of DSL, which I really appreciate.

    However, should you face any problems with your service, no matter how minor it is, you’re better off cancelling your service and starting a new package. They have the most horrendous customer service I’ve ever used in my life! It’s a nightmare!

    Btw, why doesn’t the comment box appear on Chrome, IE or FF on Win 7?

  2. Hopefully fixed the comment box disappearing :-p.

    If it weren’t for my house being one of the few in the area, new wiring (outside and maybe even inside the house) and closer to the exchange I would still have been with Batelco (or any other DSL provider). Batelco’s online line tester mentions 4Mbps, but the max my modem(s) could sync was 2Mbps before crapping out. As a result, my only choice right now is wireless broadband…

  3. Loved this review of yours Elyas,
    What’s your take on Zain? Their 10/10 plus BD1 for unlimited telephone is a killer offer (seemingly).
    As a little-above-the-average-user, do you think I should go for the package?
    I need expert advice here please.

  4. I don’t know many people using Zain, and I considered using them few years back (but there was a waiting list back then). However, I’ve heard mostly positive feedback (compared to Mena for latency sensitive applications).

    Remember that Zain’s Internet service is offered through WiMAX. It is not the 3G type offered by Viva. You get a WiMAX router that comes with phone ports (I believe you get a number that starts with 136). So it is portable as long as you have electricity.

    I believe they are the 2nd in Bahrain to offer unlimited (after Lightspeed). Given their network, they have a good mix of providers so hopefully enough capacity to give you the speed promised (at an unlimited rate).

    The unlimited calling is very attractive. But remember it is only to Zain numbers, and before signing up make sure it really is UNLIMITED calling!

    Given my experience with Zain is only mobile services, I found customer support lacking. Also they seem to not update their website often when they offer new products and services (take a look at the broadband page, no mention of contract length, termination fee if you break the contract etc… assuming there is a contract)

    I can’t seem to find any reviews after they upgraded their WiMAX network, so I can’t give much advice. You could give them a try, assuming the contract is not strict in case you change your mind.

  5. Hey, I need some help. I purchased the 28mbps Postpaid Broadband by Viva on 26-0812 so I could replace my Zain for faster internet and it seems to have a lot of problems:
    1.When I took a speed test it was >2mbps.So when they say 28 mbps, shouldn’t it be super fast because even Google takes a min of 30 secs to open most of the time.
    2.The internet just breaks down every 10-15 mins.

    Any clue what the problem could be?


  6. Hi Nigel,

    1. It is up to 28Mbps. That speed is also theoretical assuming no one else is on the antenna, signal strength, distance, network conditions etc…

    The max I have EVER seen was around 22Mbps (in the review above, you can see the conditions), and this was with the 42Mbps dongle. I see on average 2-10Mbps depending where I’m at. A really congested area like Juffair, gives me around 2Mbps.

    Have you tried connecting from different places? For example close to a window rather than surrounded by walls.

    2. I’m guessing the break down might be a signal issue. Try the tip above about connecting from a different place.

    With wireless connections there are too many variables, making troubleshooting a pain. An issue that might be on your side may actually be something wrong with the ISP or vice versa.

  7. Hi Elyas
    Thanks for providing info to the public. I’m planning to subscribe for a new USB Internet and I want to know if lightspeed is good? I’m using batelco but I’m having slow connection from time to time , I’ve tried viva before and I also had same problem, I live in Dumistan and maybe that’s the cause of my slow connection. Thank you

  8. Hello Everyone & Merry Xmas!

    I am a hardcore gamer, and i want to see at last 4 bars internet connection in Call of Duty.
    The best i’ve ever seen was 3 bar for a few days when i was in Viva postpaid around 30BD monthly.

    I live in Seef on the 32nd floor and i want something that is going to provide me my desired connetion. Money is not an a issue.

    Does anyone have a strong IT person to test everything and do whatever it takes in order for me to have the best Internet so i can see the 4 damn bars?




  9. I see it’s been a year since the last comment or post on this issue and I have to say, Viva’s customer service is still in the gutter. I doubt they even look into such posts or take them seriously but nevertheless, someone out there might read them and actually pay some consideration into people’s opinions.

    I just got off the phone with viva with a final verdict that they cannot do anything about my issue either… In most parts of the world, their practices would be considered fraud. I bought a 28Mbps dongle and asked all relevant questions during the purchase process about speed and coverage. Needless to say, I didn’t get what I was promised. I could’ve saved my money and bought a 7.2 Mbps for the same service, but as far as they’re considered, an average of 3Mbps on a 28Mbps device is acceptable and the customer can go to hell. They won’t refund your money if you bought the device! Furthermore, they act like they and only they understand how networks work and the customer is an idiot. In addition to this, their statistics page shows less usage than what they actually charge. As I said… Fraud.

    Of course, in this part of the world, there is no customer protection agency or any entity that protects from such activity by “people with money”!

  10. I have had a Viva connection since march 2013 and I have nothing but complaints regarding their service. I have a 28mbps dongle and on good days (few and far between) I get speeds of about 4mbps, and on most days I get speeds below 1mbps. And customer care regards 1mbps to be their benchmark of being a good connection.They don’t seem to have any qualms about charging me for a 28mbps connection while giving me 1mbps. They have a word for shit like this and it is “cheating”.

    And of late the connection has been so awful, I actually miss my 1999 Batelco 64kbps dialup connection. At least that was reliable.

  11. I am one of the helpless users of viva. They charged 90 BD extra saying that I used the data in roaming. My mistake was that I kept the location option on. I didnt get any notifications about the tariff or alerts during roaming. Every user cannot be up to date with the Tariffs, terms and conditions as VIVA explains at the time of raising such issues.
    Also they are not co-operative in porting the numbers to other service provider. One more point is, I got a call from viva to advise me to take next level data plan (ie from 5 BD to 7 BD monthly mobile post paid plan) as per my usage. That month my billing was already done. I asked the executive while on the about the tariff about the new plan. They told it would be pro-rated and applicable as and when I start it. But they didnt tell me that my current plan charge was not prorated. I had to pay for the current month base amount 5 BD plus pro-rated charges for the new plan ie.7 BD. If you calculate such kind of cases, viva scores, may be, lakhs of BHDs with this kind of approach itself.

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