I’ve recently heard news from my friends that the telcos in Singapore are cutting back the limits on mobile data provided along with their subscription plans. There are two reasons why this issue bothered me enough to write about it: one, I’m about to subscribe to a data plan within the next few months and this will affect me; two, they are cutting back data limits from 12GB to 2GB, that’s a-sixth of the original, if you could use 6 hours of data, now you can only use one, if you had three meals a day, now you just choose to have one.

“As SingTel became the first telco here to launch its fourth generation, or 4G, smart phones yesterday, it also unveiled plans that do away with the “buffet-style” mobile data bundles that consumers had become accustomed to.” — Today

First buffet-style is not accurate here, perhaps that’s why it’s in quotations. Buffet means all-you-can-eat, and 12GB isn’t all you can eat. Ask Takeru Kobayashi if you want to know what is all your can eat.

“The 4G service is up to five times faster than the maximum Internet speeds offered on the existing 3G network, but the greater speed comes at a cost.”

This may seem reasonable, when you have faster speed, you have to pay more right? Right? No, not fully. With greater speed, consumers will naturally consume more data over a fixed period of time. When you increase the price you knowingly increase the cost your consumers pay. Marketing genius I suppose. The increase of speed of technology is inevitable. Read Moore’s law if you have no idea*. Technology is supposed to advance year-on-year. And decreasing the cap, and hence increasing the price, is forcing customers to pay more for the same usage. This is extremely backwards. You don’t see Intel Pentium 4 chips selling at $300 right now do you? An Intel i5 Quad core chip retails for <$300 SGD. Same price, 4x the core, at least 2x the speed. No telcos, faster does not mean pricier. More means pricier, which is why I have no problems with segmenting the market by data usage.

And also for comparison, IPv6 is out, and I’m sure some hardware configurations are necessary on the provider’s part, but you don’t see them charging more when people access the IPv6 versions of websites right?

“In this era of data explosion, it is necessary for mobile operators to rationalise and bundle their data products right to better manage finite network resources so as to ensure network quality for customers.” — corporate communications senior manager Cassie Fong

Yes of course you have to ensure network quality, if not you’ll be slapped by fines! In this case I assume by “bundle”, it means to segregate plans by consumer usage amounts. Those who use more, pay more. Good. Until you see the next quote:

“Under SingTel’s new price plans, 90 per cent of customers will be able to meet the lower data bundle tiers without busting limits, going by their current usage patterns.”

So what is the point of restructuring? 90 per cent use less than 2GB of the 12GB that they are able to. And you say that there is data explosion? And that you need to better manage network resources? Why did you offer 12GB in the beginning? Were your networks capable of handling 3+ million people downloading 12GB worth of content every month? If your network could, why do you have to cut the data usage when 90 per cent use less than a-sixth of what they could? And if you network couldn’t why did you offer 12GB? To entice people to sign up? At the cost of quality? And when you realize “Oh there’s this data explosion, we have to cut down”, you trim slash capacity down to a-sixth?

What’s more nonsensical is the quote below:

‘He added: “No matter how much we add to the network capacity … we are not able to keep up with the behavioural change.” ‘ — SingTel CEO for Consumer Singapore Yuen Kuan Moon

Good to hear you are adding to the capacity, my friends are complaining a lot about the speeds of 3G. And you are not able to keep up with the change?! Okay wait, refer to quote above: “90 per cent use less than 2GB of the 12GB”. Not able to keep up with one-sixth of what you advertise? Okay sure let’s do some quick math. If a person uses 2GB of the 12GB he/she has, it means that for every 6 persons, only 1 plan is required. Assume a consumer population of 1 million. 900k people uses less than 2GB. Which means only 150k plans are required. The remaining 100k? Lets say they bust the 12GB cap, by twice (highly unlikely), so they need two data plans to cover their usage. That’s a total of 150k + (100k * 2) = 350k. Just over a third of 1 million. Now dear telco, you are saying that you are not able to keep up with offering 350k 12GB plans when you are supposed to prepare for one million 12GB plans? You fail to keep service standards even with a third of the consumer base? What were you adding to the network capacity? Salt?

“LTE coverage here is still limited – it is available in half of the island. Coverage will be raised to 80 per cent by the end of the year, and island-wide by early next year.”

Yay LTE island wide! Verizon (USA) covers 250 cities, 200 Million people. It’s about time our three telcos cover 1 city, and 5 million people. But yea we shouldn’t really be comparing ourselves with the US of A, despite SingTel being one of the largest mobile network operators in the world, and also the govt’s IT master plan to be first in internet coverage or something (Citation needed). But its good, expanding coverage is always good. Until you hear of this:

“SingTel’s 4G service will still be seamless as its customers can fall back on the 3G network in areas without LTE coverage” — SingTel CEO for Consumer Singapore Yuen Kuan Moon

SEAMLESS!!! They might as well say, “Consumers will not even realize that they are paying the same price for less data for reduced speeds!

-UPDATE-

Maybe I’m just naive, because money makes the world go round right? You just have to pay. Those who have money pay more, those who don’t, you just have to use less. That’s how things work around everywhere.

DISLAIMER:

I am a SingTel user.

All quotations were retrieved from this Today Online article.

Opinions are my own entirely and do not represent views from any organizations or groups that I am affiliated or has associations with.

*Moore’s law applies to hardware, transistors actually. I’m not an expert at how mobile data works back end, but I think it all boils down to some switches, cables, transistors, processors, bytes, bits. So its all linked. The main point is technology advancement is inevitable.

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