Tuesday, June 5, 2012

SingTel pulls a stunt with severely handicapped 4G data plans

To see a comic gist of my post below, click here!

In a stunt move, SingTel just announced new mobile plan specifications that are taking effect from 1 July 2012. All customers re-contracting or signing up for new 3G or 4G plans from next month onwards will have much smaller data caps applied to them if they are paying $99.90 or less. The data caps are announced to be three to six times smaller than current ones.

I was under the impression that the new data caps should only be affecting 4G plans, but I was shocked to find out that if I re-contract my current line and purchase a new phone in September, my data cap will drop by a dramatic factor of 6 from 12 GB to 2 GB even if I stick to a 3G plan. I find this unfair and also it makes a conversion to 4G utterly pointless. The fact that SingTel's 4G network rollout is expected to be completed by early 2013 means there will more than 9 months of fallback to 3G network in places where I'm most likely to be. Not to mention, the rollouts inside MRT tunnels and underground stations usually come very late.

If I am on a 3G network, 2 GB should be sufficient for me as in most months I barely come close to 1 GB of usage. However, if I switch to 4G network with up to 5 times the speed of a 3G network, my data usage habits can change considerably. I could be watching YouTube videos with the same responsiveness as I can on my home computer with a cable broadband connection. (The frequent need to wait for buffering has deterred me from watching videos on my phone.) I could surf the internet more and enjoy higher quality content. This can easily tip my data usage over the 2 GB cap and inflate my bill (which apparently will no longer have the "No Bill Shock" protection).

iPhone users have it worse. Thanks to Apple's decision to never ever have an FM Radio hardware inside (just as they decided to never ever have Adobe Flash), iPhone users have to depend on internet streaming radio apps (MeRadio, etc.) to listen to their favorite radio stations. These apps can easily use a lot of data in streaming local radio broadcasts, which Android users can get at absolutely no data usage using their built-in FM Radio hardware. (On a sidenote, it really is a wonder how most people go for iPhone's sex appeal, despite the sorely lacking hardware and Apple's immense desire to dictate what the market should get rather than give what the market desires.)

A suggestion made in HardwareZone was to continue on the current 12 GB data plan without re-contracting, and travel to Malaysia to purchase a new phone at a cheaper retail price. This should be possible as I know of someone who continues to use a then-expensive-now-cheap plan that had been obsolete for probably a decade or more. This is probably what I am going to do, given that the worth and value of SingTel's plans are going to be lost from next month onwards. What about you?

Links: News article, HardwareZone rant and rave.