Mobile surfing in Singapore 9th most affordable globally

Commuters on the MRT using their mobile devices.
Commuters on the MRT using their mobile devices. PHOTO: ST FILE

On the go broadband prices among most competitive in Asia too, UN study shows

Mobile broadband prices are more affordable in Singapore than most countries in Asia, even though they have been rising over the last three years, a new study claims.

The Republic is also the world's ninth most affordable economy for the service.

The information, based on last year's prices, was revealed in a study by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations agency for information and communication technologies. The rankings were based on entry-level subscription plans with a monthly data allowance starting from 500MB.

Affordability was calculated by taking mobile broadband price as a percentage of an economy's monthly gross national income per capita. The lower the value, the more affordable the plan.

European nations dominated the top 10 list, with Finland in pole position, followed by Iceland and Austria. Mr Nikhil Batra, research manager at market research firm IDC, said: "The European Union has tight regulations on the pricing of telco services and is very high on consumer rights.

"This has resulted in the high affordability of mobile broadband services."

The least affordable plans were found in African nations, such as Niger, Liberia and Chad. The need to build infrastructure to cover vast rural areas in Africa has made operational costs high, leading to higher prices.

Compared with 2013, Singapore moved up 21 places last year in the affordability chart for mobile broadband.

Singapore was not ranked in 2012, when the ITU started including the price of mobile broadband services in its study.

Mr Mike Ang, president of the Association of Telecommunications Industry of Singapore, said last year was, in fact, "the year of price hike" for mobile broadband services.

Last year, all three local telcos - Singtel, StarHub and M1 - raised monthly mobile subscription fees by between $2 and $5. So a plan with a data allowance of between 2GB and 3GB now costs at least $42 a month.

And the year before, all three telcos doubled their rates for customers who exceed their monthly data bundles.

Last year, Singapore was 14th for the affordability of its fixed-broadband services.

It slipped from its third position in 2013 as broadband operators here were dishing out the faster plans and discontinuing slower ones that tended to be cheaper.

The minimum speed of fixed broadband plans on sale last year was 100Mbps, whereas 25Mbps plans were still available in 2013, according to ITU findings.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2015, with the headline 'Mobile surfing here 9th most affordable globally'. Print Edition | Subscribe