Mobile Data without borders? A Review of M1 Data Passport

Revolver Espresso, Seminyak, Bali

Singaporean travelers using M1 mobile services: did you know you can enjoy overseas data roaming from just S$12/month? Here’s how M1 Data Passport works and how it compares to portable Wifi routers or prepaid data SIM cards.

What is M1 Data Passport?

I’ve been a loyal M1 customer for close to 20 years, so when M1 launched Data Passport in 2015, I immediately tried it out on my next trip overseas. M1 Data Passport lets you use your mobile plan’s local data bundle for surfing overseas, starting from $10 per month (+$2 per activation). For a typical holiday, that’s $12, which easily beats most local data SIM cards (~$15/day) or portable WiFi router rentals (~$8-$25/day)!

For a few more expensive countries or multiple-country usage (e.g. across Asia, Europe) prices range from SGD 25-50 a month. Updated October 2018: M1 has increased the prices of Data Passport for several popular countries like China, Japan, and South Korea. As such, I tried StarHub’s Happy Roam prepaid data roaming SIM and now recommend it over Data Passport.

M1 Data Passport promises the highest speeds available on its overseas partner networks. But of course, I had to test M1’s claims in the perfect scenario: 3 weeks in Bali.

Ease of use: activating data roaming powers

MyM1 Data Passport ActivationIt’s super easy to activate M1 Data Passport. Using My M1 app, I logged in the day before my trip, went to Data Passport, and activated the service for Indonesia. Within the hour I got an SMS confirming that I was good to go.

(If you’re already overseas, you can dial 123# to activate via USSD code – it’s free.)

Connectivity: YMMV

The moment I touched down at Ngurah Rai International Airport, I excitedly switched on my phone and connected to the XL Axiata partner network. I enabled data roaming and waited for the connection.

I waited…and waited. Two hours later, checked in to my homestay in Canggu, I was still waiting. Eventually I had to call M1’s customer service line to report the problem and 10 minutes later, it was fixed…or so I thought.

Frustratingly, my problems with data connectivity didn’t end there. I’m not sure if it was XL’s fault or M1’s – my phone would show a 3.5G (HSDPA) connection in populated areas like Seminyak and Ubud and yet fail to load Facebook, Instagram, Maps, or Uber. The data roaming only worked when I was in Denpasar or Canggu. I ended up relying mostly on the WiFi in cafes and convenience stores.

That said, I’ve had no issues with connectivity when using M1 Data Passport in Hong Kong, Indonesia (Bali), South Korea, and Taiwan. If they could add more countries like Canada and Mongolia, it’d be a dream come true!

Bill shock: any hidden charges?

Service validity: When I received my bill, I found I’d been charged $2+$20 instead of $10! Turns out the service was charged per billing cycle (or calendar month) rather than every 30 days from activation. Since I was in Bali from November through December, I got billed for both months.

HoweverM1 has since changed the service billing policy. Now, Data Passport only charges you $10 for every 30 days from the date of activation.

Network Lock: This service is really handy, as it only lets your phone connect to M1’s data roaming partner networks. This way, you won’t end up on a different network with hefty data roaming rates.

Data limit: Do note that your data usage for M1 Data Passport is deducted from your usual postpaid plan’s limit. There’s no additional data given, but if you run out, you’ll be charged just $10.70/GB of data, with a monthly data bill cap of $188.32.

Reminder: Don’t forget to deactivate the service after you return from your trip!

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Customer service makes all the difference

I know people love to hate on telcos for poor customer service, but I’ve only had pleasant experiences with M1 in all my years as a subscriber. Really!

The first time I used Data Passport and got charged twice because of the billing cycle confusion, I called M1 to give my feedback and request for the unexpected charges to be waived. Guess what?

M1’s customer service rep readily agreed to refund the extra $10, as well as the charge for the overseas call to M1. What’s more, he reminded that my M1 Home Fibre Broadband plan was expiring and that I should renew it before I was charged a non-contract rate!

The second time I had to call and ask for charges to be waived was when I used the USSD code to activate Data Passport, and accidentally chose the Asia Data Passport when I only wanted coverage in Taiwan. I discovered my mistake immediately and deactivated it within 10 minutes, but I’m glad M1’s customer service rep was accommodating enough to waive the charges without hassle.

So, is M1 Data Passport the best bargain for data roaming?

Maybe. For shorter trips within a calendar month, M1 Data Passport is clearly the most affordable option. With this, daily data roaming rates should become a thing of the past! However, if you’re travelling with a close group of friends, a portable WiFi router might still work out to be cheaper per person since multiple devices can connect to the same router.

If you’re traveling over a longer period of time, like my 3 weeks in Bali, then choosing Data Passport would depend on the availability of local SIM cards. While a prepaid SIM can be cheaper and more reliable, registering to use one can be quite troublesome in some countries.

Have any questions or comments on M1 Data Passport? Leave a comment to let me know.

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