Feature Article

August 20, 2014

SingTel 300-Mbps Mobile Network Passes 55 Percent of Island

SingTel on Aug 19, 2014 reported that its street-level coverage for its 4G LTE-Advanced network, supporting top speeds of 300 Mbps, now extends to more than 55 percent of the island.

SingTel said its coverage now includes areas such as Orchard, the Central Business District, Shenton Way, Tampines, Jurong and Woodlands.

SingTel will launch the new service with devices including the Samsung Galaxy S5 4G+, which is compatible with LTE-Advanced.

SingTel also will make available the Samsung Galaxy Alpha 4G+.  

Aside from representing new benchmarks for mobile Internet access performance, in the same way that gigabit networks represent the new benchmark for fixed network access, those sorts of speeds again raise the issue of whether, and under what conditions, a mobile Internet access service can be a functional substitute for a fixed network service.

That question is important for many service providers, as we already have seen substitution of mobile voice for fixed voice. And that precedent has many concerned that mobile Internet access could supplant fixed access in many cases.

That is not to say such potential substitution is easy. The objections are numerous. Mobile bandwidth is more expensive, per unit, than fixed network bandwidth, at the retail level.

In other words, each megabyte or gigabyte of usage costs significantly more in the mobile realm, than in the fixed realm. The difference, in general, is an order of magnitude, but can, in some cases, range as high as two magnitudes of difference.

And, as helpful as 300 Mbps mobile access speeds are, that remains slower than the gigabit benchmark now being set for fixed networks.

In addition to being “slower,” mobile Internet access also tends to be sold with stringent usage caps that are an order of magnitude or two orders of magnitude smaller than what consumers can buy on fixed networks.

But we already can note many instances where mobile substitution is a reality. In most developing markets, fixed line infrastructure simply will be unavailable. So access will be by some wireless method: mobile phone, Wi-Fi or satellite.

In other cases, some users simply prefer to buy mobile Internet access as their primary or exclusive way of using Internet apps and services.

In most cases, what all those use cases have in common is relatively light usage or single-user scenarios. In a growing number of cases, though, with the development of shared data “family plans,” mobile Internet access might be useful in a wider variety of scenarios.

New LTE-Advanced networks, and some innovations in service plan pricing, could be crucial in determining how much mobile substitution occurs in markets where both LTE-A and fixed broadband networks are widely available. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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