Thursday, September 1, 2011

Unlimited mobile broadband is set to be history in Singapore

Actual mobile broadband data speeds in Singapore are many times slower than the theoretical broadband speeds advertised. It is so bad that sometimes in crowded areas, it is impossible to open a simple web page. The difference is so obvious that Singapore mobile broadband data providers had to disclose real access speeds of their mobile broadband services (wireless data plans, and not voice and data plans which many smartphone users subscribe to).  Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) has been the first in Singapore and Asia in July:

“Hence when you plug a dongle into a notebook computer to surf the Internet, you can now know the average speed you will get if you're a SingTel customer. For example, for users of a 3.6 megabit per second (Mbps) plan, the typical range is between 0.8Mbps and 2.1Mbps or at most 60 per cent.
The maximum average for those using the 7.2Mbps service is at most half (between 1.4Mbps and 3.7Mbps). Premium customers on SingTel's 21Mbps service will have access speeds of between 1.7Mbps and 4.8Mbps.”[1]

M1 followed SingTel today and given its range:
“The cheapest plan at $12 per month, for example, boasts a theoretical download speed of up to 7.2 megabits per second (Mbps) but the typical speed resides in a range of 0.6 to 4.8 Mbps, M1 has revealed.”[2]

The range they have given is very broad so it is basically meaningless according to some experts. But it reveals that the real broadband speeds are much slower than the theoretical speeds. And obviously the load on the limited resources of network is the main reason. So it is not surprising to hear that M1 will no longer offer unlimited data plan:

“We are changing the way we sell our mobile broadband plans, mainly to enhance our customers’ surfing across any new plan they choose, and allow them to pay for what they use.”[3]

It may be disappointing for bit torrent addicts but I think this is how it should be. Last week when I was in Vietnam, I borrowed my sister-in-law’s Viettel 3G mobile modem and was shocked with high speed. It was probably 10 times faster than my Starhub mobile modem I use in Singapore. The obvious reason is the load on the network also. When you do not price a limited resource based on usage it will be abused. And radio spectrum used for wireless communication is a limited natural resource! If you put flat rate on it, those who use less will end up subsiding those who abuse the usage while getting a poor service
Current unlimited plans will be available until their contract ends. Do not turn your face to StarHub who also provides unlimited data plans. It appears that StarHub could soon follow M1. StarHub vice-president Joanna Chan told to TODAT that globally the mobile data usage is rising and the only way to keep the service quality is the mobile plans by usage.[3]

M1 has also introduced its new limited plans priced based on the data bundles:

"Three of the new plans have a theoretical download speed of up to 7.2 Mbps, with a monthly subscription of $12, $24 and $40. These plans are for data bundles of five gigabytes (GB), 12 GB and 50 GB, respectively, on a 24-month contract.

Data usage beyond the data bundle of each plan will cost $5.35 per GB, but will be capped at $69.30, excluding the monthly subscription fee."[2]

[3] - M1 to phase out unlimited data plans, TODAY 

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