Telcos plan to offer faster 1Gbps mobile surfing speeds as early as end 2017

Singtel has upgraded its 4G mobile network, bringing top surfing speeds to 450Mbps from 300Mbps previously.
Singtel has upgraded its 4G mobile network, bringing top surfing speeds to 450Mbps from 300Mbps previously.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The race is on to up the ante on mobile surfing speeds as all three local telcos Singtel, StarHub and M1 strive to pull off an Usain Bolt record in Singapore.

And much faster 1Gbps surfing speeds are on the horizon.

On Wednesday (Jan 11), Singtel said it completed the upgrading of its 4G mobile network, bringing top surfing speeds to 450Mbps, from 300Mbps previously, across the island.

With this, it has surpassed StarHub and M1 to become the telco that offers the fastest peak mobile surfing speeds commercially available in Singapore.

StarHub and M1 offer top mobile surfing speeds of 300Mbps across Singapore. But they are preparing their networks to offer surfing speeds of more than 1Gbps as early as the end of this year.

Singtel too said it plans to offer up to 1Gbps of mobile surfing speeds as early as the end of this year at high-traffic locations such as the Central Business District.

These developments put Singapore one step closer to the next frontier of mobile services: 5G services, which are said to be more than 10 times faster than 4G ones.

For instance, last week, M1 conducted a 5G trial and reached peak surfing speeds of 35Gbps.

Mr Clement Teo, principal analyst at market research firm Ovum, said: "The faster speeds will likely accommodate more devices, such as Web-enabled light bulbs, as they come online."

Singtel's 450Mbps upgrade means that its 4G customers can download a two-hour 720p high-definition film in less than two minutes instead of close to three minutes on the older 4G network.

Mr Yuen Kuan Moon, chief executive officer of Singtel's consumer Singapore unit said that "with more customers consuming and sharing mobile videos, 450Mbps speeds will enable them to download movies in a flash and give them a better entertainment experience while on the go".

There is a catch. To enjoy the new speeds, customers need compatible phones, many of which will be launched only in the next few months.

Current compatible models are the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. LG V20 users will be able to take advantage of the new surfing speeds after a software update in the next few months.

Mr Chong Siew Loong, head of network engineering at StarHub, said that although the telco has been testing technologies that offer mobile surfing speeds of more than 1Gbps, it is only prepared to deploy them for customers when it gets more blocks of mobile frequencies from the authorities.

A mobile frequencies auction is slated to take place by March this year.

The launch of more compatible phone models is also another determining factor, added StarHub.

Mr Denis Seek, M1's chief technical officer, said that its customers can surf at up to 1Gbps islandwide by the end of the year with the rollout of its heterogeneous network, which allows users to hop across 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi networks.

"We expect to deploy 5G technology when technology standards are finalised (by 2020) and when mainstream 5G consumer devices are available," said Mr Seek.