StarHub today launched four sharply priced smartphone plans with generous data bundles starting from 12GB all the way to 24GB, the latest sign of more intense competition as Singapore readies for a possible fourth telecom operator as early as 2017.
Users can expect savings of more than 50 per cent, according to the “green” operator, though the offerings come with a catch. Customers will have to sign up for the cheaper plans as part of a bundle with a StarHub fibre broadband service.
The cheapest plan, called SurfHub 12, goes for S$96.56 a month and provides 12GB of mobile data, 150 minutes of calls and 1,000 SMSes on the go, plus a 1Gbps fibre link at home.
Buying the two services separately, a user would have to pay StarHub S$49.90 a month for the fibre link and S$220 for a similar 12GB mobile plan, though that comes with unlimited calls and messages as well. Bought separately, the services cost S$269.90 a month.
Renewing the competition in free mobile data bundles, StarHub’s move could force rivals to follow suit and restore the free capacity cut four years ago.
In 2012, Singtel took the lead to cut back the popular 12GB mobile data bundles, which were offered on even the cheapest smartphone plans, to as low as 2GB. StarHub and later M1 followed suit.
Now with competition heating up again, the tune that telcos seem to be singing is a little different.
Already, new challenger Circles.Life, which launched in May, and fourth telco contender MyRepublic have targeted consumers’ frustrations with the meagre free data bundles as a way into the market.
Sensing the changes to come, incumbent telcos have not been standing, either. In the past year, they have rolled out more attractive roaming services, introduced cheaper SIM card-only plans and offered more flexibility to those who want to use more data and make fewer calls.
StarHub’s new data-centric offerings today are the latest to try winning back users who have stayed away from re-contracting because they wanted to preserve their old plans with 12GB of free mobile data usage.
One of the sweeteners that telcos are dangling now is content. By offering cheaper ways to access songs or videos on the go, they will hope to tie down users in long-term contracts.
StarHub now offers to stream its StarHub Go video streaming service without charging customers for the mobile data usage used to watch the clips. It is also providing the content at half price for 12 months for new customers.
Singtel already lets users to pay a flat fee to get their music on the go with Spotify and other services.
And just last week, M1 started selling its fibre broadband services with a low-cost add-on for users to watch selected English Premier League matches live each week.