Calling, texting and surfing in New Zealand

There are three main telcos in New Zealand – 2degrees, Telecom NZ and Vodafone NZ. The locals do not really understand ‘telcos’ (they gave me a blank look), so use wireless carriers or mobile operators instead.

As we planned to have two Internet-enabled devices, we got a SIM from Vodafone NZ for our calling, texting and mobile data needs and another from Telecom NZ purely for mobile data. Here’s why.

When we landed at Christchurch Airport, it surprised us that only Vodafone NZ had a store there. Telecom NZ’s nearest retail store was about ten minutes away at Northlands Shopping Centre (55 Main North Road). We therefore decided to get one SIM card from Vodafone NZ first. Our second SIM from Telecom NZ came when we got to Queenstown.

Vodafone NZ

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | A pre-paid plan for visitors

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | A pre-paid plan for visitors

I was initially turned off by the $59 fee, but the SIM card (standard, micro or nano) is free and it was a blessing in disguise. This pre-paid plan allowed us to call to confirm accommodation, book activities and reserve seats at cafes and restaurants. A key benefit about this plan = you can call back or text to both NZ and Singapore numbers without incurring extra charges. In this pre-paid bundle, you get 120 minutes (billed per minute) and 200 SMSes. As for the $10 credit, it will be used when you exceed your calling, texting or data bundle.

While in Queenstown, we needed a microSIM card adapter. I walked into a Vodafone NZ retail outlet expecting to fork out good money for it. I was pleasantly surprised when the staff passed me the adapter for free with a smile. I was taken aback. Not too shabby service there.

Find a Vodafone NZ shop here.

Telecom NZ

As expected, the 2GB bundle wasn’t enough for us. We walked into a Telecom NZ shop in Queenstown and got ourselves a 3GB pre-paid data-only plan for $35 – $5 for the nano-SIM card + $29 (promo rate) for the 3G data bundle + $1 credit. The usual price would be $5 + $49 = $54

Find a Telecom NZ shop here.

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Data speeds for both companies were alright. You can turn on Personal Hotspot to share your Internet connection with your other devices. No complaints, but note that there is no Telecom NZ mobile coverage in and around Punakaiki Resort along the West Coast.

Easter egg

Of course, there is a need to highlight StarHub’s data roaming services, if you so require. 🙂 If you are a StarHub Mobile subscriber and find buying a separate SIM card troublesome, you can surf while in NZ at $10 for every 50MB of data (while connected to any mobile operator) or $30 per day for unlimited data roaming (only when connected to Vodafone NZ). Find more details here, or you can comment below and I will be happy to help.

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Click here to return to the main content page on my trip to New Zealand.

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Surfing net while overseas can be hassle-free

Image | StarHub | RoamEasy

Image | StarHub | RoamEasy

“Data roaming” is an extremely scary concept for many. These two words are associated with expensive, complex, confusing and “must remember to turn off when you go overseas”.

So what exactly is Data Roaming? Essentially, it means that smartphone users can surf the Internet without swopping out their home country SIM card for a local one. You can just immediately, upon touching down at the airport, get access to mobile data services by logging on to the foreign operators’ network. So is this expensive? Actually, yes. Prevailing rate for data roaming is SGD 20 per megabyte. This means that you will be charged SGD 20 when you download a 1MB document while connected to a foreign operator’s mobile network.

This is why many telcos link up with each other to offer cheaper alternatives. For example, if a StarHub customer goes to Malaysia and connect to DiGi, his or her data charges will be capped at $15 per day. This means that he or she can enjoy unlimited access to the Internet while connected to a preferred foreign telco for $15 a day. However, please note that if you happen to switch to MAXIS or Celcom, you will incur $20 per MB.

Getting confused? Well, StarHub has a solution for you – RoamEasy. RoamEasy ups the game by allowing you to connect to any mobile operator and yet enjoy only one low data roaming rate of $10 per 50MB. Using the earlier example, you can now connect to MAXIS, DiGi, Celcom or U Mobile and still enjoy the same rate of $10 per 50MB. What’s more? The block of 50MB will stay valid as long as you continue using it within the country. The block will only expire at the end of the day (SGT) or when you leave the country.

This new service looks good on paper and I can’t wait to try out this service soon. Very soon, in fact. If you want to try it out, SMS SIGN ON to 6818. You must be a StarHub customer with a mobile plan though. There is no need to deactivate this service when you come back to Singapore. This service will automatically kick in when you fly off to the participating countries (see below).Image

CarrierCompare: Which Telco Works Best For You?

Screen shot | BIG_MOUSE | CarrierComp available on the iTunes Store

Screen shot | BIG_MOUSE | CarrierComp available on the iTunes Store

See description by the developer of this free, ad-supported iPhone app (SwayMarkets Inc) in the screen shot above.

CarrierCompare supposedly judges the network providers by comparing ‘Signal Strength’, ‘3G/ Internet Speed’, and ‘Response/ Latency’. Rather interesting app, but I am not sure how accurate the results are though. Do note that this app requires location data. And unless you want to test the performance of your WiFi network, the app works better (and more accurately of course) with your WiFi connection switched off.

On a random note, I find it interesting how the 3 coloured dots logo of this app (almost) summarises the 2 bigger telcos in Singapore even though it is not locally created.

  • Green – StarHub
  • Red – SingTel
  • No orange dot in the logo for M1 though. 🙂

The developer has another app, Data Monitor, for subscribers who like to use their bundled data right up to the telco-imposed limit. However, the app does not seem to be working properly though. (Edit: Yay! It’s working fine now. This app is good as it allows me to set a monthly automatic reset based on my billing cycle)

StarHub Rewards: The Better Way

After years (exaggerating of course) of analysing, I have finally found a better way to redeem my StarHub reward points. People with SingTel, feel free to contribute too (am not too sure about Red Rewards as the scheme started quite recently).

Till now, I am quite amused at how people complain like mad just because they cannot claim movie tickets for 1200 pts, or some 20-dollar shopping voucher for about 1500 pts. Doing a quick calculation, the average points per dollar required for these 3rd-party items (because they are not from StarHub directly) is about 75 points per dollar. That is, a subscriber needs to ‘spend’ about 75 points just to get a dollar’s worth in voucher form. Looking at the screen shot below, you can do your own calculations too.

Screen shot | BIG_MOUSE | StarHub Rewards (Wine and Dine)

Screen shot | BIG_MOUSE | StarHub Rewards (Wine and Dine)

So, what’s the better way? For me, I rather get cash-off my subscription plans than to exchange my points for vouchers or other gifts. Apart from it being more convenient as I do not need to specially go to a merchant just to exchange those vouchers, I get a better deal from StarHub. Recall how a dollar’s worth of voucher costs about 75 StarHub Reward points? What if I were to tell you that there is a better way to spend your points – get cash off your monthly bills instead of ‘wasting’ points on vouchers.

Arranged in order of decreasing value (as compared to about 75 reward points/dollar for vouchers)

  • 33.38 points/dollar (Maxonline Express: 2000 points to get $59.92 in rebate)
  • 32.9 points/dollar (SmartSurf 100: 1250 points to get $38 in rebate)
  • 32.5  (IDD Talktime: 650 points to get $20 in rebate) (Redeem it and $20 will be deducted off your mobile bill. You dont have to make any IDD calls.)
  • 32.35 points/dollar (3 Basic Groups: 900 points to get $27.82 in rebate) (This is the best redemption option, so far, based on the points/dollar calculation)

The thing about using the points to claim StarHub-related rewards (subscriptions, etc), you get the full monetary value credited into your account. In the past, I always thought that claiming a month’s worth of subscription isn’t worth it as I usually do not need to pay the usual subscription price because of Hub Club or discounts. Here’s an example. Usual price of a MaxOnline subscription costs $59.92 per month. But because of their promotions and stuff, I only pay $44-ish per month. However, if you were to claim a month’s worth of MaxOnline subscription, StarHub will credit the full $59.92 into your next bill. Any leftover credit will be carried over to offset your following bill. That simple. Redeem the amount, and it will be credited into the next mobile, tv or broadband bill, depending on your service claimed.

I hope that my calculations are correct. And yes, the information here is correct at time of post.

Crazy Little Thing Called Hub – Life. HUB IT!

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Sparky's in love, but he lost his love. Help him!

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Sparky's in love, but he lost his love. Help him!

Qn: What happens when Sparky, a Singaporean Jack Russell, loses sight of the love of his life in the TV world?

Ans: A responsible owner takes out an ad, offers a huge reward…and…organises a Love Tail Contest for all to chip in.

Love Tail Adventure (26 Aug – 10 Sep)

Image | StarHub | HUB IT! app available for iPhones and Androids

Image | StarHub | HUB IT! app available on iPhones & Androids

What better way to do enlist the public’s help but to invite the audience right into Sparky’s searching-for-love adventure via Singapore’s 1st interactive commercial which will air on StarHub TV channels and on YouTube come August 2011.

Using a newly-launched free application – HUB IT! – for iPhones and Androids, we all can help Sparky find his love by interacting with the characters and the scenes in the commercial via our mobile phones.

18 clues, through hidden scenes, tasks, videos, games and more, will be revealed between 26 August and 10 September. Solve them all to unlock the map that will lead you to Sparky’s dream girl. You will be stand a chance to be rewarded too for your hard work.

2 dogs, 1 love and loads of fun! This video provides a succinct summary in less than 2 minutes. Watch it to get a headstart. 🙂

Photo | StarHub | One step closer

Photo | StarHub | One step closer

I was given a chance to try my hands at interacting with the commercial a few days ago. It was quite an interesting experience I have to say. Pointing a phone to a commercial playing on screen felt a little weird at first, felt really self conscious and all. But after fiddling with it and playing a short old-school-looking bitmap-ish game, I got the hang of it and managed to get one step closer to finding Sparky’s girl. It was quite addictive that we just wanted to continue ‘playing’ even when the emcee told us to stop. 😛

Note that this journey with Sparky to find his love is open to all Singaporeans/Permanent Residents. Here are 3 easy steps to help Sparky out (and win cash and prizes up to $100,000 too).

Photo | StarHub | HUB IT! Landing Page

Photo | StarHub | HUB IT! Landing Page

STEP 1: Download the HUB IT! app onto your iPhone or Android phone.

STEP 2: From 26 Aug to 10 Sep, a clue will be released everyday. Click on the ‘CLUES’ tab to receive your clues.

STEP 3: Tap on ‘FETCH-A-REWARD’ and align your mobile phone camera with the interactive commercial on the TV or YouTube. Tap on the characters and scenes on your mobile phone to unlock tasks, and win prizes too. (Hint: Notice the small ‘tap now’ bubble in the image below. Clicking it will bring up something cool. ALSO, remember to turn up your TV/computer speakers reasonably loud.:))

Photo | StarHub | Tap Now

Photo | StarHub | Tap Now

Enjoy the adventure!!!

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LIFE. HUB IT!

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Hubbing redefined: LIFE. HUB IT!

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Hubbing redefined: LIFE. HUB IT!

This campaign is in line with StarHub’s bid to redefine ‘Hubbing’. 9 years since the introduction, the Hubbing concept has matured from just offering discounts of subscription plans to emphasising the customer experience. It’s new tagline -LIFE. HUB IT! – promises customers a more exciting life, by giving anything, anytime, anywhere.

Time will tell if this branding campaign will be able to positively influence, maintain and even improve customers’ opinions and experiences with its products and services. For now, it looks real promising and as a ‘Green’ camp customer myself, I sincerely hope it will.

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Inflation strikes again: StarHub Cable TV ups subscription rates

StarHub has announced a two-dollar-per-month increase on all their basic group subscription rates which will start appearing in customers’ bills from August 2011. This increase applies to new and existing customers too. For more details, please click here to access their Rate Increase site. FAQs and query submission forms are all included there.

Screen shot | starhub.com | the two-dollar increase

Screen shot | starhub.com | the two-dollar increase

Screen shot | StarHub Facebook Wall | Their announcement on social medium

Screen shot | StarHub Facebook Wall | Their announcement on social medium

And as at 2211 hrs, 29 June, there are 20 likes and a total of 147 comments. No other status updates from them got such a ‘lively’ response (I think). Recalls some PR course in school: Any publicity is still publicity. 🙂

However, to me, I think there are two main issues fueling this ‘anger’ against StarHub (but but, I think using vulgarities mindlessly in the comment thread doesn’t make you any stronger or make your point any clearer.)

  1. The user experience.
    1. Out of nearly 41,000 Facebook page likes, it may seem that very few people are voicing out their displeasure and/or opinions about this increase. Which may be true too. $2 dollars per month isn’t a lot, seriously. This increase of 8.33% ($2/24) pales in comparison to the 20% ($0.10/#0.50) increase of the price of the unhealthy, oily fried dough sticks sold at Fengshan Market, and to the 25% increase of petrol prices (from $1.6 to 2 per litre). $2 increase isn’t really a big issue, to me at least. I will pay for quality content.
    2. Any increase will cause frustrations and unhappiness, but this time round, I don’t think the focus is on the 2-dollar increase.
    3. Then what?
    4. Customer experience perhaps? People are unwilling to pay more to extend the lousy user experience when using StarHub-related products or services.
    5. However, till now, I have not experienced incredibly bad customer service from StarHub. When I read (sometimes super vulgar, and sometimes badly-worded) posts online about people’s experiences with StarHub, I keep asking myself why I do not go through those frustrations as well. Maybe all those frustrations ended when I left SingTel like 10 years ago. 😉
    6. But their callback promises usually not fulfilled though – You need to chase them a bit to get them moving.
  2. The increase applies to customers bonded by contracts too.
    1. Most of the comments were directed at how customers who are already on contract will need to ‘accept’ this price increase. Some customers were also bonded recently and still have to stomach this increase.
    2. Thankfully, I am still on a 3-month-totally-free-and-no-contract with StarHub TV, so I can still change my mind.
    3. However, I found an official reply from them about customers who are on contract – submit your queries to StarHub Cares Facebook App. (and nope, I am not Dan. haha)
Screen shot | StarHub Facebook Wall | For customers on contract

Screen shot | StarHub Facebook Wall | For customers on contract

There are always two sides to a coin though. Straight after this announcement, some industry watchers have increased their target share prices for StarHub by nearly 10 cents for some. Maybe 20 investors clicked the ‘like’ button. 🙂

The morning after a 24-week journey

The monday after. No need to wake up at 7.10am, even though I did just that today (*takes out battery from the clock in my body*). I can just relax at home for a while before FYP’s engine starts again.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | StarHub Green at Ubi + huge barren land

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | StarHub Green at Ubi + huge barren land

It’s been quite a challenging yet exciting experience at this large green building. I started out as a theory-filled novice with totally no working experience in the public relations or corporate communications industry. All I had was just theories, frameworks and experiences from others in the industry. I was a greenhorn (haha, pun intended).

24 weeks on, I have improved greatly with the patient guidance from my organisation supervisor and colleagues. As I started filling up with more practical knowledge, I was tasked with much more responsibilities and followed through more queries, media releases and tasks from the start, right to the end. I was then able to understand the whole process from receiving a query, getting information from the respective departments and personnel, crafting a reply, getting approvals, communicating with reporters and to finally seeing the published queries or articles.

There were events to attend to, marketing/publicity materials to come up with, media invites, media releases, FAQs and speeches to draft, product launches, press conferences, CSR initiatives, media monitoring, etc. So many things to do, so many things to learn in PR. And oh, I will so miss receiving emails from Google Alerts with links to weird articles about the telecommunication industry. 🙂

Screen shot | BIG_MOUSE | Google News (telcos)

Screen shot | BIG_MOUSE | Google News (telcos)

This process of learning in a corporate organisation was enhanced because of the conducive working environment at StarHub Green with supportive colleagues who were more than willing to impart knowledge and information. I was given countless opportunities to contribute my opinions and ideas freely and to assist my colleagues who supported StarHub’s different lines of business (Mobile, Cable TV, Broadband, Fixed Networks, Investor Relations, Community Relations, etc).

I am delighted to be part of the Corp Comm & Investor Relations family who treated me as one of their own. And PR/CC is still as fun as it is on academic papers.

On a random note: What a nice way to end the internship; with a free 3-month Cable TV trial from StarHub. I am sure that this has nothing to do with me leaving StarHub, but the coincidence is rather interesting. HAHA! At last, after countless years, I have free 3 basic groups for 3 months. And of course who can forget the Hub Club discounts for my family’s mobile and broadband contracts. Just nice for this summer break.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Free 3-month StarHub Cable TV Trial

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Free 3-month StarHub Cable TV Trial

Before I end this,

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | If undelivered...

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | If undelivered…

This will remain undelivered for about a year, and will only be redelivered (hopefully) when I am done with formal education. The future, no one knows. The future, I am trusting that God will pave the way even though everything’s still clouded in mystery. Bye bye internship, hello 1.5 months of rest.

Hubber’s mobility

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Hubber's Maxmobile Student Plan

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Hubber's Maxmobile Student Plan

Woohoo. I will never need to depend on wireless@sg or NTUWL liao. Introducing to you, Starhub’s MaxOnline Express Plus (Youth Plan). This special bundle includes…

  • 16Mbps home broadband
    • Comes with a free cable modem. If you already have one, opt to get 3,000 Starhub rewards points instead.
  • 1.2Mbps 3.5G mobile broadband
    • Because of the customer loyalty program, Starhub issued me this USB stick modem (Huawei E1550) for free (UP: $98). They also delivered the modem for free ($12.80).
  • Free home fixed line
    • Free till December 2011 (they have been extending this deadline since don’t know when, awesomeness)

All for just $47.94. So I am paying just $3 more a month to get all these extra benefits (my previous 16Mbps home broadband ONLY costs 44.94 per month)