In Malaysia, there is so much choice in getting a SIM card, like a Hotlink SIM card. In fact, Hotlink, using the Maxis network, is the fastest SIM card in Malaysia.
But just being fast does not mean that it is also good. There are many factors that should be taken into account, especially with the competitiveness in the Malaysian telecom market.
Hotlink is one of the four full operators in Malaysia, offering 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks, together with Digi, Celcom, and U Mobile. You also have a few 4G-only operators, which are Unifi, Altel, and Yes 4G. Finally, there are more than 10 Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), like Tune Talk, although most Malaysian MVNOs offer postpaid services only.
With so much choice in Malaysia, should you go with Hotlink? We will find out in this Hotlink review, where I will go over everything you need to know about buying a Hotlink Prepaid SIM card as a tourist, traveler, student, or Malaysian national/resident.
Original publication: 28th of July 2020. Last updated: 18th of February 2023.
Table of Contents
You may have heard of Maxis and Maxis SIM cards before, or you have heard that Maxis works with Hotlink. Maxis Communications is one of the four main telecom operators in Malaysia, together with Digi, Celcom, and U Mobile.
The Maxis brand offers mobile postpaid plans and broadband internet plans. Hotlink is a brand of Maxis that provides both mobile prepaid and postpaid plans. Those looking to get a Maxis prepaid SIM card will get a Hotlink prepaid SIM card because the Maxis brand has no prepaid plans.
Although Hotlink stores do exist, you will mainly find Maxis stores. Worry not, you can go to a Maxis store and buy a Hotlink SIM card there or ask anything related to Hotlink.
Okay, I know that talking about frequencies is boring to the general user, which it honestly is. However, it is essential to know what frequencies Hotlink supports before buying a Hotlink SIM card. If your device is incompatible with Hotlink’s frequencies, then your Hotlink SIM card will not work.
Hotlink uses frequencies that are used mainly in Africa, Asia, and Europe (ITU regions 1 & 3). These frequencies are used by Hotlink:
- 2G: 900 MHz
- 3G: 900 MHz & 2100 MHz
- 4G/LTE: 1800 MHz (Band 3), 2100 MHz (Band 1) & 2600 MHz (Band 7)
To learn whether your device supports these frequencies or not, go to this site to find out.
As always, make sure your phone is unlocked. Otherwise, you will not be able to use any SIM card except the one from your home operator.
In terms of Hotlink’s 5G offering, they expect to launch 5G in 2021. The new Hotlink Prepaid SIM cards are 5G-ready, meaning that you can use the Hotlink 5G network with a 5G-compatible device once Hotlink's 5G network goes live.
I am always curious about the nationwide coverage an operator has, especially if I am planning on staying in less urban parts of the country.
Through the Maxis website, I managed to find this coverage map.
I also took a look at the coverage maps the Speedtest app had to offer for Hotlink. If an operator has no coverage map on the website, I always resort to Speedtest coverage maps because I find them the most reliable crowdsourced coverage map checker.
Based on all these coverage maps, it can be concluded that coverage with Maxis/Hotlink is good throughout Malaysia, especially in West Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia). Coverage in East Malaysia (on Borneo with the states of Sabah, Sarawak, and Labuan) is alright, but most people live in Peninsular Malaysia anyway.
Be aware that Hotlink has the second-best 4G availability and 4G coverage experience, according to Opensignal. This puts Hotlink slightly behind Celcom, which has the best 4G coverage in the country, covering 94% of the population (you can check my Celcom review here).
You may have noticed that I stated the population instead of the country. That is because population coverage is different from land coverage. Large parts in Malaysia are simply forest, jungles, or mountains (especially in East Malaysia).
The operators do not bother to put antennas there because barely anyone lives there or goes there. Instead, they place antennas where people live or go to.
That is why Hotlink can claim they cover more than 90% of the population, while only covering about 50% of Malaysia (a rough estimate, not a fact).
In short, you should have good coverage throughout Malaysia and good 4G/LTE availabilities, even when traveling between states, cities, towns, and villages.
You can get a Hotlink SIM card in Maxis stores or from authorized dealers. There is a Maxis & Hotlink store in the arrival hall (M2) in Kuala Lumpur International Airport (in terminal 2 – KLIA 2). Apparently, there is also one in the arrival hall (M3) of terminal 1 (KLIA), but it was nowhere to be found when I arrived there.
Perhaps it was still closed (I arrived at 6 in the morning (AM)). Or it opened after my trip to Malaysia. As a result, I decided to get my Hotlink SIM card when I got to Kuala Lumpur city center.
I went to the Maxis Centre KLCC, also referred to as the Maxis Tower. It is a 49-story building that is Maxis’ headquarters. However, the lower floor has a large store for you to buy or inquire about anything related to Maxis or Hotlink.
Hotlink offers two types of prepaid SIM cards:
- Hotlink Prepaid Unlimited
- Hotlink Prepaid Video
What is the difference between Hotlink Prepaid Unlimited and Hotlink Prepaid Video? Hotlink Prepaid Unlimited offers plans that come with unlimited internet (throttled up to 6 Mbps), unlimited local calls, and free premium access to Viu. Hotlink Prepaid Video comes with plans with capped data allowances, but unthrottled speeds, and free Video Internet data (for YouTube, Viu, iflix, Astro GO, and tonton).
With the Hotlink Prepaid Unlimited SIM card, you can also buy internet passes that come with uncapped speed. With these passes, you can also use your phone as a mobile hotspot (tether), which is not possible without an internet pass.
You may have heard of Hotlink RED SIM cards. Although Hotlink RED SIM cards still exist, they have been replaced with Hotlink Prepaid Unlimited/Video. Those with a Hotlink RED SIM can still get RED packages, but the new packages, which will be mentioned later in this article, are not compatible with Hotlink RED SIM cards. This is also something to be aware of if you somehow manage to get your hands on a Hotlink RED SIM card.
In most Maxis stores, you can also buy a Hotlink Tourist SIM. The Hotlink Tourist SIM comes with 8 GB, 60 local minutes, and 60 IDD minutes (for China and India) for 15 days. In fact, the Maxis salesperson may not offer you a regular Hotlink SIM card if you tell them you are a short-term visitor.
Although I kept inquiring about a regular Hotlink SIM card, the salesperson kept saying that the Tourist SIM is the best. As I could not be bothered to go to another Hotlink store (and perhaps deal with the same issue), and wanted one Malaysia SIM card that I could use as my main one (instead of constantly switching between SIM cards to preserve data), I decided to get the Hotlink Tourist SIM.
Hotlink’s tourist SIM is reasonably priced compared to many tourist SIM cards around the world. I was just not happy that I was not given a choice to choose between a tourist SIM card and a regular one, even though I knew they were offered. I am sharing this story just in case you experience the same issue.
You can get a Hotlink SIM card, either the Hotlink Prepaid Unlimited SIM card or Hotlink Prepaid Video SIM card, for 10 MYR, which is about 2.35 USD. The Unlimited SIM card will come with 500 MB Basic Internet (monthly), and 5 MYR in credit (valid for 5 days). The Video SIM card comes with 300 MB (valid for 2 days), 10 GB Video Internet (monthly – 2.5 GB/week), 500 MB Basic Internet (monthly), 1000 minutes to 5 “friendz,” and 5 MYR in credit (valid for 5 days).
Basic Internet refers to the fact that you can browse the web freely, but your speeds will be throttled to 64 Kbps.
The 5 Friendz have to be Maxis or Hotlink numbers. To add a Friend, dial *100*3*3#. Adding your initial 5 Friendz is free. However, you will be charged 10 MYR per subsequent Friend change.
What about the Hotlink Tourist SIM? Those can be purchased for 36 MYR in various Maxis stores. The Tourist SIM is valid for 15 days and comes with the following perks:
- 8 GB of high-speed internet (then throttled to 64 Kbps)
- 60 local minutes
- 60 IDD minutes (China & India)
You can purchase a regular internet package if you are out of your 8 GB high-speed data. However, buying a bundle will not extend the validity of your Hotlink Tourist SIM card, which will terminate after 15 days after purchase, even if the validity of the bundle is longer than that.
You are also supposed to “enjoy great discounts & deals from Malaysia’s biggest shopping malls & brands,” but nobody could tell me which malls and brands participated in this program, nor could this information be found on the Hotlink Tourist SIM webpage.
Apparently, all you have to do is to take the SIM card “the respective malls’ concierges to receive the mall’s tourist card, which will entitle you to special discounts & offers at participating merchants”, according to the extended FAQ page for the Hotlink Tourist SIM.
As per the Prepaid Registration laws dating back to 2006 by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC for short), all users, regardless of their nationality, are required to register as long as they are subscribers of a Malaysian prepaid SIM card. This applies to tourists (long-time) travelers, migrant workers, and students.
What is meant with registration? Your personal details, including your passport details, will be stored into a database that will be linked to your Hotlink prepaid SIM card. If you buy your Hotlink or from a Maxis/Hotlink store or an authorized, the salesperson will activate and register the SIM card upon (but be sure to bring your passport with you – photocopies are not allowed).
You can buy a Hotlink SIM card from other third-parties, like 7-Elevens, myNEWS, or 99 Speedmart outlets. However, these agents will not activate the SIM card on your behalf. Instead, you can then go to a Hotlink store to activate the SIM card for you or use Self-registration.
- Being at least 12 years old
- Have fewer than 5 active prepaid lines with Hotlink
- Have a valid ID (MyKad, Passport, iKad, MyPR, MyTentera & MyKas)
I am not sure if international passports are accepted by this app. I got my SIM card at a Maxis store, so I did not have to deal with self-registration (and I recommend tourists and travelers to get a Hotlink SIM card in a Maxis store – it will be more convenient).
For those who are interested in knowing how the Hotlink Daftar app works, this YouTuber made a short and straight-forward video tutorial on how to use the app.
You can get a Hotlink top-up voucher at basically everywhere. Official Maxis stores, kiosks, convenience stores, and grocery stores sell Hotlink top-up vouchers.
Hotlink top-ups range from 5 MYR (5-day credit validity) to 100 MYR (100-day credit validity). You will have a 50-day no-balance grace period with your Hotlink SIM card. After that, the SIM card will expire (unless you have the Hotlink Tourist SIM – those expire after 15 days).
|Reload Amount||Credit Validity|
|5 MYR||5 days|
|10 MYR||10 days|
|30 MYR||30 days|
|50 MYR||50 days|
|100 MYR||100 days|
As I did not need to top-up my SIM card when I was in Malaysia, I cannot show you the steps on how to recharge. However, the steps are printed on the voucher or card, and they are not hard to miss.
You can check your Hotlink credit balance by dialing *100#.
Hotlink offers several types of plans, depending on the type of SIM card you have. With the Hotlink Prepaid Unlimited SIM card, you have Unlimited Plans (with throttled speeds), and Uncapped Speed Add-Ons. The Hotlink Prepaid Video SIM card offers Video Plans (high-speed internet and Video Internet) and Hot Ticket Passes (high-speed internet & international call credit).
To recap, you have:
- Unlimited Plans (Reduced data speed with FUP limits for the Unlimited SIM Card)
- Uncapped Speed Add-Ons (High-speed data add-ons for the Unlimited SIM Card)
- Video Plans (high-speed data and video internet for the Video SIM Card)
- Hot Ticket Passes (high-speed data and international call credit for the Video SIM Card).
Click on the links above to jump to the plan you are interested in.
The Unlimited Plans, which are exclusive to the Hotlink Prepaid Unlimited SIM card, come with “unlimited” data (speeds up to 6 Mbps) and unlimited local calls. Be aware that Fair Use Policy (FUP) limits apply (which will be mentioned in the table below). Upon reaching the FUP limit, your speeds will be reduced to 512 Kbps.
The Monthly Unlimited Plans come with free premium access to Viu. None of the plans include SMS. Moreover, tethering (mobile hotspot) is not allowed with these plans, unless you purchase an Unlimited Uncapped Speed Add-On.
The following Unlimited Plans are available:
|Price||Data||FUP Limit||Maximum Speed||Local Calls||Free Viu Premium||Validity|
|3 MYR||“Unlimited”||5 GB||3 Mbps||Unlimited||No||1 day|
|12 MYR||“Unlimited”||15 GB||3 Mbps||Unlimited||No||7 days|
|35 MYR||“Unlimited”||50 GB||3 Mbps||Unlimited||Yes||30 days|
|45 MYR||“Unlimited”||50 GB||6 Mbps||Unlimited||Yes||30 days|
The Unlimited Uncapped Speed Add-Ons, which are exclusive to the Hotlink Prepaid Unlimited SIM card, are add-ons for the Unlimited Plans that do not have speed restrictions. Furthermore, you can use your device as a mobile hotspot (tether) when you have these add-ons enabled.
The following Unlimited Uncapped Speed Add-Ons are available:
|1 MYR||Truly Unlimited||1 hour|
|3 MYR||3 GB||24 hours|
|10 MYR||5 GB||7 days|
The Video Plans, which are exclusive to the Hotlink Prepaid Video SIM card, come with high-speed data and free Video Internet (YouTube, Viu, iflix, Astro GO & tonton). Some plans come with unlimited local calls or Premium Access to Viu.
Do note that there is something called FREE 2X Video Internet with the Video Plans. This bonus has to be redeemed on the Hotlink App (Open the Hotlink App and press Claim on the homepage).
The following Video Plans are available:
|Price||Data||Video Internet||Local Calls||Free Viu Premium||Validity|
|3 MYR||2 GB||4 GB||None||No||1 day|
|7 MYR||1 GB||2 GB||None||No||7 days|
|10 MYR||2 GB||4 GB||None||No||7 days|
|15 MYR||2 GB||4 GB||Unlimited||No||7 days|
|25 MYR||4 GB||8 GB||None||No||30 days|
|35 MYR||8 GB||16 GB||None||Yes||30 days|
|45 MYR||10 GB||20 GB||None||Yes||30 days|
|60 MYR||10 GB||20 GB||Unlimited||Yes||30 days|
Remember, your Video Internet allowance for YouTube, Viu, iflix, Astro GO & tonton has to be redeemed on the Hotlink app.
Be aware that if you have exhausted your data allowance, you can still browse the web freely at reduced speeds (64 Kbps)
The Hot Ticket Passes, which are exclusive to the Hotlink Prepaid Video SIM card, are passes that come with data and IDD credit (international direct dial) to be used for calls to Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand & Vietnam.
The following Hot Ticket Passes are available:
|3 MYR||1 GB||3 MYR||1 Day|
|6 MYR||3 GB||6 MYR||3 days|
|10 MYR||2 GB||10 MYR||7 days|
Now for the exciting part – is Hotlink really that fast?
When I was in Malaysia, I did five speed tests with Hotlink. Three tests for this written review, and two tests for the video reviews (Hotlink individual review review and Malaysia SIM card comparison).
One speed test was done at a restaurant somewhere in Kuala Lumpur (I do not recall which one), one on the 5th floor in the Pavillion Mall in Kuala Lumpur, and one test at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (while sitting at the Old Town White Coffee, to be exact). There were my results:
Those are some good speeds! In fact, I had the fastest download speeds with Hotlink than any other Malaysian operator I tried (average download speed of 39 Mbps). I never had a single-digit download speed result with Hotlink (<=10 Mbps), unlike any other Malaysian operator I tested.
When looking at Hotlink’s average upload speed, it averaged 21 Mbps, slightly behind the one of Celcom’s (22 Mbps – but Celcom’s average download speed was 18 Mbps).
According to the Speedtest Global Index (June 2020), the average download speed is slightly above 24 Mbps in Malaysia, while the average upload speed is close to 11 Mbps.
Opensignal did as study (April 2020) and found that the average download speed with Maxis/Hotlink is 20.4 Mbps, while the average upload speed is 7.7 Mbps.
Remember, the methodology both Speedtest and Opensignal use are different, and both companies have different data sets. As long as your speeds are between the speeds reported by both companies (20.4 Mbps – 24 Mbps download, 7.7 Mbps – 11 Mbps upload) or higher, then you know are good.
My average download speed with Hotlink was 39 Mbps, and my average upload speed 21 Mbps, so I count myself to have been on the good side of things.
I would recommend Hotlink for anyone wanting to buy a Malaysian SIM card. Overall, my browsing experience with Hotlink was pleasant. As noted in the speed section, I had the fastest average speeds with Hotlink, and Opensignal also concluded that Maxis/Hotlink has the fastest speeds in Malaysia.
Because I was forced to purchase the Hotlink Tourist SIM that came with 8 GB of data, I made Hotlink my primary SIM card while in Malaysia.
What is a primary SIM card, you ask? A primary SIM card is a SIM card I use more than the other SIM cards I buy for testing purposes. I usually buy a larger data pack for my primary SIM card compared to the other SIM cards.
Although I tested all the Malaysian SIM cards I bought during my trip in Malaysia in-depth (Digi, Celcom, U Mobile & Yes 4G), it is inconvenient to keep switching SIM cards and keep track of how much data I have used with each plan. That is why I select a primary SIM card.
Even when not looking at speeds, I had a good browsing experience with Hotlink. YouTube videos never (or rarely) buffered. Websites and Reddit loaded fast. Posting pictures and stories on Instagram was fast too.
The one thing I am not so fond of is how the new Hotlink Unlimited Plans claim to have “unlimited” plans. When I was going over the plans, I assumed you had truly unlimited data because your speeds are throttled already (max. 6 Mbps).
Typically, with unlimited plans, you either get unlimited data at slow(er) speeds or a high-speed allowance, which then gets throttled to slow(er) speeds. Hotlink Unlimited Plans throttles your speeds from the start and then makes them even slower after reaching a certain limit.
These Fair Use Policy limits are not mentioned on their product page. I found this in their terms of conditions page (which nobody reads anyway, right? Except for me, I guess).
I understand why, in general, Fair Use Policy limits are imposed. Else, some bad actors will abuse the system, which will affect the network experience for everyone else.
However, I believe it would be better if the limits were clearly mentioned on the product page. Then customers can adjust their browsing habits accordingly.
What I do like with these new Unlimited Plans compared to the old Hotlink RED plans is that, even with the Fair Use Policy limits, you get much more data than before.
I managed to find an old RED product listing of the RED packages. You get more data with the Unlimited Plans for lower prices – that is always good.
Either way, these changes did not affect me with my Hotlink Tourist SIM. Still, it is good to know that the Hotlink plans have improved instead of worsened (that, unfortunately, happens around the world every now and then).
In short, I would recommend Hotlink for those planning on buying a Malaysian SIM card. Hotlink has the fastest speeds in Malaysia and great coverage throughout the country. As a result, they deserve their 5-star rating.
But before you go out and get yourself a Hotlink Prepaid SIM card, be sure to check out my other Malaysian SIM card reviews, which are Digi, Celcom, U Mobile, and Yes 4G. They could be better for you depending on your scenario, and each operator offers unique packages.
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