The privilege of enjoying 4G speeds on its mobile network, called the ‘4G Speed Boost’, will cost StarHub postpaid subscribers an additional S$2.14 from June 1. It is not clear if this is an ‘opt-in’ arrangement where the user has to register for an additional service, or an ‘opt-out’ arrangement where the user can decide whether to pay the additional money for the month. Prepaid users will also need to activate a ‘4G Booster‘ in order to make use of 4G speeds.
The S$2.14 rate is a promotional rate that is already heavily discounted from S$10.70 a month which StarHub notes is the ‘normal’ price. A small footnote adds that StarHub will determine how long the promotion lasts.
When SingTel, M1 and StarHub introduced 4G on their networks, mobile data plans were not differentiated by network speeds. Subscribers could basically enjoy 4G speeds if they had the appropriate hardware, and the only danger was exceeding the free data capacity in a mobile data subscription as it was no longer painful to download large files such as Youtube videos. A FAQ by M1 still reflects this concept with the question:
“Is 4G data usage charged separately from 3G data usage?
No, 4G data usage is charged the same as 3G data usage. The data bundle of your smartphone plan / data VAS is applicable for both 4G and 3G data usage.”
A list of data plans from SingTel merely lists speeds for both 3G and 4G and does not differentiate between the two for the plans described.
All three telcos already increased their profit per downloaded megabyte with a round of data plans which lowered the average amount of free data included in the ‘lite’ package from 12 GB to 2GB. The differentiation of 3G and 4G would add slightly over S$25 a year to the StarHub coffers per mobile data subscriber, more if the costs go up.
When one telco in Singapore raises prices for a service, the others often follow suit within months. It is a simple way of increasing revenues quickly, especially if subscribers like 4G speeds and are unwilling to fall back on 3G speeds. The question for subscribers to ask is whether 4G coverage and speeds are very much better than 3G coverage and speeds, and whether 3G services are acceptable in the first place.
Paul Mah, who is a long-time StarHub subscriber, has this to say about StarHub’s 4G services: “It is fast and highly usable even for laptop tethering. However, I did notice that 3G speeds on StarHub is a lot slower these days, to the point of being unusable on a laptop.”