How does new telco differ from the others?

Whether Circles.Life offers the best deal depends on the user, says ST's tech editor

Reader James Lee wrote in to ask about new mobile operator Circles.Life. He wanted to know if it is better to subscribe to the operator's 26GB plan.

He also asked: "So Circles.Life is not really a traditional telco line like M1, Starhub, Singtel and it runs on VoIP? Is this good or is a traditional network better?"

Senior tech correspondent Irene Tham answers.

Virtual mobile operator Circles.Life turned heads when it launched its new $20-for-20GB add-on plan last week. This means that customers pay a total of $48 a month for a whopping 26GB of mobile data.

Circles.Life may be the cheapest option for heavy users of mobile data, with its plan costing $48 a month for a whopping 26GB of mobile data, However, customers who travel often and prefer not to make WhatsApp calls may find Singtel, StarHub and M1's
Circles.Life may be the cheapest option for heavy users of mobile data, with its plan costing $48 a month for a whopping 26GB of mobile data, However, customers who travel often and prefer not to make WhatsApp calls may find Singtel, StarHub and M1's roaming tie-ups more attractive. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The short answer to whether Circles.Life's newly launched plan is the best deal in town is: It depends on what you are looking for.

Looking at similar SIM-only plans from the other three telcos - Singtel, StarHub and M1 - Circles.Life has the cheapest plan for heavy users.

Here are the comparative plans:

• StarHub's 4G 12 plan - which costs $110 a month for 12GB of mobile data, and unlimited outgoing calls and SMS/mms - can be upgraded to provide a total of 20GB of mobile data for $169.50 a month. Users are not tied to any contract.

• M1's mySIM+ 45 plan - which costs $45 a month for 8GB of mobile data, 400 minutes of outgoing calls and 1,200 SMS/MMS - can be upgraded to provide a total of 20GB of mobile data for $62.70 a month. Users need to sign a 12-month contract.

• Singtel charges $73.50 a month for 23GB of mobile data. There is no talk-time or SMS unless users choose the add-on. The 1,200 SMS/MMS add-on costs $5.35 a month. The 200-minute outgoing calls add-on also costs $5.35. Users are not tied to any contract.

• Circles.Life's $48 a month plan comes with 26GB of mobile data, but there are no unlimited free incoming calls - unlike the other telcos. The plan comes with 100 minutes of free outgoing and incoming calls. But WhatsApp voice calls are free. Users are not tied to any contract.

At the end of the day, it really depends on what users are looking for. Customers who travel often and prefer not to make WhatsApp calls may find Singtel, StarHub and M1's roaming tie-ups more attractive.

The three telcos sell daily unlimited mobile data plans for roaming on their preferred partners' networks. The plans start from $15 a day, depending on destination.

Another option is M1's Data Passport service, which lets customers use their existing unused Singapore mobile data allowance overseas - for a fee. The service is priced from $10, depending on the country, and is available in more than 40 countries. Popular destinations such as Australia, Hong Kong and the US are included. A $2 activation fee applies.

Mr Lee had also wondered if being a virtual mobile operator has any impact on quality of service. The short answer is: It should not be any different, since Circles.Life bought airtime in bulk from M1 instead of building its own physical mobile networks.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2017, with the headline 'How does new telco differ from the others?'. Print Edition | Subscribe