IDA to study mobile data experience in Singapore

Mobile data services are just as important to users now, say experts. A poor 3G connection (left) means difficulty surfing the Web.
Mobile data services are just as important to users now, say experts. A poor 3G connection (left) means difficulty surfing the Web.ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN, IRENE THAM
Mobile data services are just as important to users now, say experts. A poor 3G connection (left) means difficulty surfing the Web.
Mobile data services are just as important to users now, say experts. A poor 3G connection (left) means difficulty surfing the Web.ST PHOTOS: NEO XIAOBIN, IRENE THAM

It is seeking information to craft new standards such as minimum speeds

The bugbear of many consumers - unreliable and slow mobile data access on their smartphones - may be a thing of the past sooner than expected.

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) recently launched a tender to collect information on consumers' experience of mobile networks here.

This is part of plans to roll out new mobile service standards for operators to comply with, such as minimum speeds and lag time for 3G and 4G data.

Analysts have hailed the move, saying that the scope of service standards has to be broadened, given the prevalence of mobile data usage today.

The regulator is looking for a contractor to develop systems to collect data such as mobile signal strength, surfing speed and lag experienced by mobile customers in a six-month survey.

One way is to develop a mobile app for users to download, according to tender documents seen by The Straits Times.

Users will also have the option to report a fault, such as no 3G coverage, through the app.

Other data to be collected will include users' device models, their locations and telecom operators' base stations.

The purpose is to gain "insights on mobile broadband usage trends and the corresponding network performance of all existing service operators", it said.

This is a precursor to crafting new service standards, which are still being explored.

Currently, IDA requires telcos' networks to cover at least 99 per cent of outdoor areas and 95 per cent of indoor areas islandwide.

An operator that fails to meet the various standards may be fined up to $50,000 every month for each breach.

Networks are considered to have "covered" an area if a phone shows at least one bar of signal strength - enough for making phone calls and sending text messages.

But mobile data access requires at least two to three bars of signal strength.

Analysts think that the move is timely.

Telecommunications consultancy Delta Partners' principal James Ong said: "Mobile data services are as important to users now as voice services were to them 10 years ago."

Therefore, specifying the minimum network coverage requirement alone is not sufficient, said Mr Foong King Yew, Gartner's vice-president for telecoms strategy.

"A mobile network can have 100 per cent coverage and yet can still be congested. Access speeds and lag considerations should complement coverage requirements," he said.

According to the tender documents, the contractor will need to recruit customers of all three major telcos - SingTel, StarHub and M1 - to participate in the survey.

The personal data of participants such as mobile phone numbers will not be collected.

The tender, which closed in December last year, attracted nine bids from research companies, including locally-based AntzWorkz Consultants and Britain-based SamKnows.

IDA said it is still evaluating the proposals.

itham@sph.com.sg


IMPROVING CONNECTIONS

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) survey will look into, among other things:

  • Mobile signal strength
  • Surfing speed
  • Lag experienced by mobile customers

Other data to be collected will include:

  • Users' device models
  • Their locations
  • Telecom operators' base stations
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