1,000 free SIM cards for MyRepublic's mobile trial

Firm eyeing 4th telco licence to offer unlimited 4G data in 3-month test

Some 1,000 free SIM cards will be given to consumers by MyRepublic as the broadband provider makes a play for the fourth telco licence here.

Users will get unlimited 4G data for surfing and making phone calls via apps such as WhatsApp or Viber on their mobile devices in a three-month trial from August.

"This is to simulate the flat fee, unlimited-data plan we want to roll out if we get the fourth telco licence," MyRepublic managing director Yap Yong Teck told The Straits Times.

The Infocomm Development Authority has yet to award the fourth telco licence. What MyRepublic has received is a provisional licence for taking part in the Government's trial of HetNet, or heterogeneous network, in Jurong Lake District in the second half of this year. HetNet is a new wireless system that lets mobile phone users automatically hop across networks to minimise surfing slowdowns or disruptions.

With the provisional licence, MyRepublic can offer mobile services, but these services will be confined to certain outdoor areas in Jurong Lake District, such as the Jurong East bus interchange and MRT train station.

Average surfing speed may also be a tad slower than existing 4G speeds as the airwaves awarded are for testing purposes, it said. Its total investment for the trial, including that for HetNet, is expected to be $5 million.

MyRepublic's existing 30,000 fibre broadband subscribers will be given priority to participate in the mobile trial. Registration details will be available at a later date.

Marketing manager Aaron Koh, 39, wants to see the comeback of flat-fee generous data plans, no longer on sale here since September 2012. "Today, I'm already using more than 10GB of mobile data a month," said the avid app user, whose phone bills run to more than $100 a month.

Mr Ajay Sunder of market research firm Frost & Sullivan said any new mobile operator would still need older 2G or 3G networks as backup: "Rolling out a 4G network takes time, and there will be coverage limitations initially."

In July last year, MyRepublic raised $34 million in funding from two investors to fund its telco ambitions. They are Sunshine Network, the telecommunications arm of Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas, and French billionaire Xavier Niel, who founded mobile and Internet services provider Free in France.

MyRepublic has received $45 million in funding since starting up three years ago. It is still looking to raise about $250 million to kick-start the roll-out of a new 4G network in Singapore.

itham@sph.com.sg