Review: Menatelecom MyFi Internet Service

Last but not least (for a while I hope :-P), comes the review of the current Internet service I am using: Menatelecom's MyFi service. Thanks to the device, it is a great way to get online with multiple devices simultaneously, and workaround platform limitations (such as dongles not working with Linux for example) given you have WiFi. The technology is commonly known as MiFi. Powered by WiMAX.

Let me start by saying that Menatelecom is not the first provider in Bahrain to offer such a device to customers, in fact I believe Zain was the first, offering it for quite a while (can't seem to find on their site. based on print ads). Viva also has a similar device, which can be found on their devices page (top half black, bottom half white device). The basics are the same, it is simply a battery powered portable router that connects to a specific network type (mobile or WiMAX).

The main reason I decided to try out the MyFi service is the face that it comes with an extra 10GB of data transfer over Viva (70GB vs. 60GB), costs slightly less (BD28 for the unlimited service), but most importantly is capped at 1Mbps if you go over limit (unlike Viva's potentially 128Kbps cap). The latter was the most important reason I decided to move. You have a choice of 3 different packages: BD9/10GB, BD18/15GB or BD28/"unlimited". The device without a contract costs BD45 or BD3/month for an 18 months contract. The router is a Seowon Intech (Korean company) SWU-8000 battery powered WiMAX router. Speed is up to 18Mbps as advertised, real world performance is between 5Mbps to 16Mbps in my tests (uncapped obviously ;-)!).

Of course Menatelecom have added their own branding so it looks something like this on the palm of your hand:

There are 4 LED lights that let you know the various status of your connection and device by changing colors as the situation changes. In operation it looks something like this:

As you can see, the lower right corner LED is off. That is the WiMAX signal LED, when it is off it means that the signal is really low, yet it still connects and works well. Depending where I am I get between off, red and blue signal (blue meaning medium). It goes up to green (highest signal) but I have never seen it light up yet.

If you flip the device over and remove the back cover, you will reveal the battery, also made by Seowon Intech (apparently they also make batteries).

The battery provides enough juice for quite some time. In my case, low signal and downloading at atleast 5Mbps, I started getting the warning (red blinking battery LED) after approximately 4 hours. I'm pretty sure under low load use you can probably push it close to 5 hours. The default WiFi SSID and WPA key is found in the battery bay and it is mena_myfi / menatelecom as shown in the sticker:

In the box you get two options to recharge and power your device. A mini USB cable which can be connected to your computer, and a standard electrical power supply that you can plug to your wall socket. The power supply provides a quicker charge and it will allow you to operate the device without the battery if you wanted to. USB unfortunately does not provide enough voltage for the device to operate without its battery inserted, a shame since the weight difference is immense with and without the battery (dumbbell vs. feather). Power is supplied to the device through the port on the side that is right next to an antenna port, which unfortunately Menatelecom do not sell last I checked. If anyone knows what sort of antenna connection that is, please do let me know :-P!

Overall the device is quite compact and it isn't cumbersome to fit in your pocket. Although given the limited pockets you generally have on you (unless you got one of those hunter vests) I prefer to slip it into my laptop case. Oh and you have a choice of black or white.

The web interface you access through the IP, is also branded with Menatelecom's stuff and it provides just about everything you need to set up WiFi, forward ports and check various status (WiMAX, LAN etc…). One thing I found missing is a UPnP setting and my PS3 confirmed that it was not running.

Now if you are really the adventurous type, please continue reading. Realize that this is a router, and like most routers these days it requires some way for admins to access the internals and change settings if necessary. As a result, connecting to the router using telnet will give you the familiar Linux/Unix like terminal provided by BusyBox. I will leave the authentication details required for the reader, it is an obvious combination ;-). The CPU used is a Ralink System on a Chip. It also comes with a generous amount of RAM given quite an amount was free during use.

WARNING: I am not responsible for what you do with telnet! It will probably void your warranty if you mess something up and by the time Menatelecom read this I will probably be on some warranty blacklist :-O!

Verdict: If you need Internet anywhere, for more than a single device, through WiFi and with a generous amount of data and decent speed then Menatelecom's MyFi service may be for you. Given they claim to have nationwide coverage, the signal being sensitive to how and where you position the device, it may not be up to par as something using a mobile network such as Viva. However, once you find that sweet spot the service works great. Do consider the customer support issue I previously mentioned with my experience using Menatelecom's myKey service. I have not had to call them yet for any issues with the service, but if I do get the "Moda Mall" / "Bahrain Trade Center" / "Main branch" for something that is probably fixable over the phone I will be extremely disappointed…



9 thoughts on “Review: Menatelecom MyFi Internet Service”

  1. I’m guessing the antenna is used to increase the WiMax signal. However I’m still not sure what that specific type of connector is called (looks like a much smaller SMA connector).

  2. I used Menatelecom wimax router service in my office & the service was horrible. They dont have proper tech support & the customer service is pathetic. The service have frequent outages & they keep on saying the same excuse after asking for our location..

    Never use Menatelecom

  3. @Hakim

    I don’t think Menatelecom sells this device anymore since they’re trying to push customers towards their 4G service. You might find them online somewhere, maybe eBay?

  4. Hi mr elyas kashfi i have new myfi lte 4g mobile wifi from mena telecom i try to use the sim card in my mobile phone but the proplom is i dont have the apn settings i call mena telecom thay dont want to give me and i ask them what if i have my on raoter they say u can bring it to as can you help me i need the apn settings so i can add in my phone and use it as a wifi

  5. @Ali
    I believe even if they gave you the APN it wouldn’t work because Menatelecom uses completely different LTE bands from the other mobile providers here (band 42 vs band 3 of the others). Assuming your phone supports the band I would guess you would be able to get a signal at the very least but not access the Internet. So if you inserted the chip in your phone and you get no signal then even with the APN it wouldn’t work.

    Nevertheless, I checked in my MiFi device for the APN and it seems to be getting it automatically and switching to manual doesn’t reveal the settings.

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