StarHub tests the market for 5G-capable plans with consumer 5G trial in Singapore

August 17th, 2020 | by Alfred Siew
StarHub tests the market for  5G-capable plans with consumer 5G trial in Singapore
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StarHub mobile customers who have a 5G phone and subscribe to a 5G-capable plan can log on to its 5G mobile network at parts of Singapore, as part of a “free” trial starting from tomorrow.

It marks the first time consumers can connect to the new network promising faster speeds for applications ranging from video downloads to mobile games.

StarHub’s 5G network now covers 53 per cent of populated areas, with a coverage of 70 per cent expected by September, it announced today. The telco also said it would launch commercial 5G services next year.

The areas covered by the trial include busy locations and major residential hubs, such as Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, the Central Business District, Clementi, Jurong, Orchard, Tampines, Woodlands and Yishun, among others. The full coverage list is here.

While StarHub has called its trial a free one, it is only available to subscribers of its newly launched Mobile+ and Biz+ plans, which typically cost more than a regular 4G plan from the same telco.

For Mobile+, for example, users pay S$65 a month for 30GB of data, along with 12 months of free StarHub TV programmes. They also have to sign up for two years.

A cheaper SIM-only 4G-only plan offering the same 30GB data costs only S$25, though users only get a three-month Amazon Prime subscription. Good news is, they don’t have to sign up for a contract.

So, is StarHub testing the market with its new 5G-capable plans? Well, it can’t say it is launching a 5G plan because its services are not properly rolled out yet but the new tiers sure look like a test of how much people will pay for 5G in future.

It is also important to note that the 5G network that StarHub is testing from tomorrow to February 16 is running on a so-called “non-standalone” architecture, which is built on existing 4G networks and may not offer the low latency often required for new uses like autonomous cars.

The telco expects to launch “standalone” 5G networks that provide higher performance, especially with low-latency, near-instantaneous responsiveness, next year.

StarHub and M1 had teamed up together and jointly won a nationwide 5G licence in Singapore in April this year. The other winner of an nationwide licence is market leader Singtel. Virtual operators are expected to join the fray later, as they have done with 4G today.

During the coronavirus pandemic, many telcos across the world have kept to to their schedules to upgrade their networks to the next-gen version. This, despite worries about the lack of big, breakthrough uses that would drive fast adoption.

Interestingly, the StarHub trial is taking a different route from other previous trials in Singapore that have usually looked at how businesses can connect, say, a network of intelligent sensors in manufacturing plants or automated machinery at seaport operations.

Targeted at consumers, it will offer techies a preview of what 5G can provide. Among StarHub subscribers, those holding a Huawei P40 Pro or Huawei P40 Pro+ 5G will be the first to test out the technology.

Users of Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G, Samsung Note 20 5G and Samsung Note 20 Ultra 5G can expect to receive 5G software updates from Samsung in phases starting end-August to get them on the network, according to StarHub.

It added that users of Oppo Find X2 Pro can look forward to receiving 5G software updates from Oppo progressively from end-October.

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