For a good chunk of 2019, I paid exactly $0 for my mobile data. I used a combination of the free TPG SIM card + Circles.Life’s $0 Flexi Plan (now discontinued, RIP).
Every time I tell people about my mobile data “hack”, their jaws drop. Part of that is because most have never heard of TPG Mobile.
… The other reason is that no one thinks it’s acceptable to carry a backup SIM card in your phone case and swap SIM cards whenever you’re underground.
If you’ve never used a TPG Mobile SIM card before, you might be wondering what the heck I’m talking about.
Here, let me tell you all about my experience with Singapore’s 4th telco!
What is this TPG Mobile / TPG Telecom thing?
TPG Telecom is an Australia telco that’s often referred to as the 4th telco in Singapore, after Singtel, Starhub and M1.
“Huh? I thought the 4th telco is Circles.Life?” you ask.
Circles.Life may have been a “telco” of sorts, but it does not operate its own network, so it’s actually technically a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). Instead, it rents M1’s network.
TPG, on the other hand, is a licensed network operator. It’s not a “tenant”.
But you may not have heard of it because although TPG won the right to operate in Singapore in Dec 2016, it has been quite quiet since.
TPG Mobile in Singapore — a brief history
Dec 2016: After fighting it out with MyRepublic, TPG Telecom won the bid to be 4th telco in Singapore. They bid $105 million.
Apr 2017: TPG officially got “spectrum rights” i.e. they could officially start operating in Singapore. Nothing happened.
Sep 2017: Still nothing, but TPG made a random announcement that all was “on track”.
Mar 2018: TPG said it would offer free mobile plans to seniors in Singapore, but no word on when that would be.
Jun 2019: TPG Mobile announced free data roaming in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Oct 2019: TPG quietly changed the free trial period from the first 12 months to the first 6 months for new signups. Will they finally launch a “real” mobile plan in 2020?
What is the TPG mobile plan like?
TPG Mobile is currently offering one SIM-only plan under its trial period, and it’s completely free to register, collect and use. I got mine shortly after it was launched at the start of the year.
Actually, the TPG mobile plan is not bad at all, considering it’s free. There’s supposedly unlimited data (with caveats) and there’s even some talktime in there (also with caveats)!
|TPG SIM-only mobile plan
|$0/month (for first
|Unlimited (capped at 2GB a day, throttled speed thereafter)
|20 min to local fixed lines. Unlimited to other TPG users on VoLTE phones
|20 SMS (to local numbers only)
All incoming voice calls and SMSes are free.
TPG gives unlimited data for free? What’s the catch?
The TPG mobile plan sounds really good right? But the problem is that TPG mobile data does not work underground.
That means you get absolutely no data on the MRT, which is when mobile data is the most valuable to us. I’ve also gotten my signal cut off in many other circumstances, e.g. in the carpark / B1 of a shopping mall and at the back of Cold Storage Holland Village.
Unless you’re willing to go without mobile data at random moments, you should pair the TPG SIM card with a backup SIM, ideally in a dual-SIM phone.
My phone doesn’t have a second SIM card slot, so what I used to do was keep my backup Circles.Life $0 SIM card + a SIM card tray pin sandwiched in between my phone and its case.
Well guess what happened next? Butterfingers me dropped my phone a million times, and finally my TPG SIM card fell through the MRT door gap one day, never to be found again. I got tired of having to do this twice-daily MRT SIM card fumble and switched to GOMO.
If you’re wondering how long we’ll have to wait until underground signal becomes available, I’m sorry to say that we have about 2 years to go.
Under IMDA’s guidelines, the deadline for underground coverage is 54 months from the start of spectrum rights, i.e. about Oct 2021.
Maybe it’s a user problem though
Now that I’m writing about my experience with TPG Mobile, I feel a bit foolish. Did I really give up a free SIM-only plan for a paid one… Just to be able to look at Lazada on the train!?
In my case, it truly is a user problem. My dad has been using TPG Mobile since the start, and he has never had an issue. His phone has a dual-SIM tray, though, and I think that helps a lot. Also, he doesn’t feel the need to consult the internet at all times of the day.
Additionally, for me, voice calls and SMSes did not work on my phone. Even though there was supposed to be 20 min talktime, it never worked for me.
But my dad has no issue with voice calls and SMSes because, presumably, his phone is one of the devices that support VoLTE. (The list is mostly Huawei, Samsung and Oppo. It’s also possible to enable VoLTE on some iPhones 7 and above.)
The saving grace is that I could receive SMSes, which is important for receiving OTPs.
TPG roaming in Malaysia, Indonesia & India
A few months ago, TPG Mobile also supposedly started offering free data roaming in Malaysia and Indonesia.
I was quite excited because I had a trip to Bintan coming up when I heard about it. Eager to save money on my (already cheap) holiday, I collected a replacement TPG SIM card to use it as a travel SIM.
Unfortunately, the data roaming didn’t work. Luckily I had subscribed to GOMO then, so I could top up for roaming, otherwise I’d have to buy a local SIM.
According to the TPG website, “International roaming on a trial basis is supported on TPG Mobile services in Malaysia and Indonesia.”
There are also plans to give users free roaming in India (“coming soon”), but heaven knows how long that would take.
So is the TPG Singapore mobile plan worth it?
To sum up my feelings about TPG Mobile, I’d say that it’s very good for something that’s free, but that it’s also free for a reason.
If you sometimes burst your data limit, it makes a good backup SIM card if you have a dual-SIM phone. Or just use it with your iPad or some other secondary device.
If you’re the type of person who will freak out if your video feed of your baby / pet / houseplant cuts off mid-MRT ride, don’t bother lah. Right now, TPG is still very unreliable and it can be quite frustrating to use. However, I think it’s a good fit for folks who are fairly tech-savvy but not glued to their phones (like my dad).
There is no lock-in period (duh, you’re not even paying for it), but you are encouraged to use your TPG SIM card consistently. If there’s no activity for 30 consecutive days or more, TPG can terminate your account and take back your phone number.
Ready to register? TPG collection points & APN setup
If you’d like to collect your TPG Mobile SIM card, you need to sign up on the TPG website and wait for an email saying that your SIM card is ready.
Once you have that order confirmation email, which contains a barcode + order number, you can head down to any TPG collection point within 30 days.
|TPG collection point
|Stadium MRT Station (Exit A)
|26 Oct to 27 Oct 2019
|Choa Chu Kang MRT Station (Entrance B of LRT)
|14 Oct to 3 Nov 2019
|Challenger @ Changi City Point
|Challenger @ Jurong Point Shopping Centre
There used to be one at Shaw Centre (Orchard) too, but it’s ceasing operations — last day is 20 Oct 2019.
Note that the opening hours are 11am to 8pm; queues will cut off at 7.30pm. Don’t worry too much about the queue though. I’ve been a few times and the wait was only about 10 minutes tops.
After inserting the TPG SIM Card, you’ll need to key in the APN settings on your phone (under mobile data/network options). Use “TPG” for the Name and APN fields and leave everything else blank.
The SIM card is automatically activated upon collection, so there’s no need to wait to start using your free unlimited data. Go wild.
What’s your experience with TPG Mobile? Share it with us in the comments.