Singapore’s cellphone operators have fallen short in providing outdoor 3G coverage, particularly in housing estates, at outdoor recreation areas and along train routes above ground, tests by the government regulator have found.
The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) said today it will fine each operator $10,000, after signal readings around the island showed that they have failed to meet the 99 per cent coverage mandated from April this year.
In tests carried out in September, SingTel was found to offer 97.4 per cent coverage, while StarHub fared slightly worse with 97.2 per cent. The worst of the three was M1, which scored 94.6 per cent.
In other tests, such as the rate of successful calls and dropped calls, the telcos appeared to pass the standards set for them, according to the IDA report released today and available here.
The government regulator appears to be giving the telcos an early warning to buck up, after repeated complaints of late by users about congested networks and poor coverage. Severe fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars have also been meted out for service disruptions in the past year.
For the telcos’ latest poor performance, the IDA could have fined each operator as much as S$50,000 for each instance of failing to meet the standards. However, it said it had considered the more extensive coverage required – up from 95 per cent previously – and expanded areas of testing.
Still, this first of several regular checks looks likely to keep telcos on their toes to maintain their 3G networks, even as they roll out faster 4G networks.
What the IDA test does not find out, however, is how congested the networks are.
The coverage test searches for a moderately strong signal, but does not check if a user can actually go online. Especially in crowded places, many users have complained about not being able to surf the Web even when their phones show a good connection.