Cellphone users in Singapore can expect extended coverage in buildings, on roads and when travelling in an MRT train underground, when stricter rules on 3G coverage unveiled today by the government regulator kick in as soon as April 2012.
Following a number of high-profile network outages last year, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) today spelt out the new rules, which will include 85 per cent coverage for each building here. Currently, telcos only have to cover 85 per cent of “public access areas”.
For commuters, the coverage will now include all road and MRT tunnels as well as the CTE by 2015, extending from the previous requirement of 95 per cent across road and MRT tunnels tested. In all, about 99 per cent of the outdoor space on the island is to be blanketed by 3G signals. Previously, the requirement was only 95 per cent across all roads.
And each time any of the three telecom operators here – SingTel, StarHub, M1 – fails to meet one requirement, they can be fined up to S$50,000, instead of the previous “slap on the wrist” S$5,000 per indicator per month.
Immediately, telcos are expected to react by setting up more equipment in the additional areas they have to cover. They might also check their existing 3G coverage by going to popular locations, like shopping malls, to test out the experience.
But it remains to be seen if the tougher rules will solve a bigger problem – the quality of service expected by users, even as more of them start logging on with smartphones and clog up networks with minute-by-minute Facebook updates.
Already, SingTel has proactively listed “typical” broadband speeds on its 3G mobile data plans and promised a “priority” lane for customers who pay more for high-tier plans. But there is still no “guarantee” of what a user can get, because the experience on the go is ultimately still determined by the number of users in an area – think of Suntec City and the hordes of people there during a computer bazaar, for example.
Still, the new rules will mean that telcos would have to prevent a repeat of the outages that M1 and SingTel users suffered last year. They should also push telcos to fix another problem – this dumping of users back on 2G at places which are expected to offer 3G speeds.
Know a place that consistently doesn’t offer 3G data? Share in the comments!