Hands up everyone who hates their telco for overcharging them every month for a pathetic amount of data, but is helpless because, uh, we only have three and it often seems like they’ve had a little discussion amongst themselves before deciding on their prices. Well, that’s what you get when there’s no competition—just look at the state of the MRT.
But after a million years, a fourth telco now seems imminent. MyRepublic and TPG Telecom will be duking it out to become that fourth telco hapless mobile device users have been praying for. Here’s how Singaporeans can benefit from the long-awaited entry of this fourth telco.
Better customised plans
If you’re at all familiar with the sorts of mobile data plans offered by the three existing telcos, you’d find it hard to believe that these guys didn’t have a pow-wow or something before coming up with their offerings together, hand-in-hand.
The range of post-paid plans on offer is quite limited, and what one telco offers mirrors those of the other two.
For instance, the three telcos all offer a very similar range of five or six combos, with range from a super light plan that gives you 100 to 150 minutes of talktime, to a maxi plan that gives you unlimited calls and 12 to 13 GB of data.
A fourth telco may be able to offer customised plans, or at least plans that can serve as an alternative for people who aren’t satisfied with what the other three are currently offering.
MyRepublic has raised the possibility of offering unlimited data plans, which just about everyone has noticed are glaringly absent from the plans offered by the existing three telcos… gotta collect those excess data charges, you know.
More innovative products
The three existing telcos are already raking it in, so why bother to offer something new? In particular, why bother introducing a product that might actually offer customers better value? Offering lousy value means more money when there’s no competition for annoyed customers to turn to.
That is, unless a fourth telco appears on the scene and offers innovative products that have been hiterto unavailable in Singapore. Predictably enough, the three other telcos will scramble to offer the same thing, and a nice little price war might start.
As a case in point, do you remember the days when 1Gbps fiber broadband was freaking expensive in Singapore? Just three years ago, a plan like that would have cost you an exorbitant $400 to $500. It’s obvious the telcos were offering it at such ludicrous prices just because they could.
The turning point came when MyRepublic appeared on the scene and started offering affordable 1Gpbs fiber broadband plans that were almost 90% cheaper. Immediately, ViewQwest and M1 reduced their prices dramatically—we’re talking about cuts of more than 70%!
Many households have now upgraded to fibre broadband, but it’s only a matter of time before some new innovation comes up that can raise internet speeds and reliability even further. And when that happens, it’d be nice not to have our three dear telcos setting exorbitant prices.
More suitable pricing schemes
While many people are hoping the entry of a fourth telco will lower prices dramatically, this may not actually happen. Of course, all of us love a good price war, but the fourth telco will of course be a profit-making enterprise and is unlikely to lower prices if they think they can profit just as much without doing so.
What we can hope for, however, is greater flexibility in the range and types of pricing schemes available.
Right now, consumers don’t have a lot of choice. Let’s take mobile data pricing schemes for example. If you’re a light-to-moderate mobile data user, you pretty much only have one option—a “lite” plan with 150 to 200 minutes of calls, and 2 to 3 GB of data—all costing between $42 to $42.90 no matter which telco you use.
But what about people who want more mobile data, and don’t mind sacrificing talk-time or the largely obsolete SMS service? Circles.Life is already addressing this gap in the market by offering 6 GB of data, 100 minutes of talk-time and unlimited WhatsApp use for $28 a month. SingTel has since followed suit with their EasyMobile plans and this has presented some extremely stiff competition.
In a best case scenario, the fourth telco will allow people greater flexibility in what they choose to pay for. In the case of mobile data, we’re pretty sure that will lead to a whole bunch of people trading talk-time and SMSes for more data.
Better integration of lifestyle products from competitors
Right now, telcos have few incentives to offer value-for-money bundles.
For instance, with SingTel’s Fibre Home Bundle plans, which includes broadband, home wireless, a landline and a 4G mobile broadband plan, you get 10% off your monthly mobile subscription… and that’s it. That’s a little stingy, don’t you think? Plus, it’s practically forcing you to get a landline even though nobody uses those anymore.
The arrival of a fourth telco might push the other three to offer more attractive bundles so as to entice competitors to continue using them for a range of lifestyle products. Then we might see bundles that are actually worth our while.
How do you think the fourth telco will benefit Singaporeans? Tell us in the comments!