New virtual telco Circles.Life offers free unlimited mobile data for WhatsApp users

New virtual mobile telco Circles.Life is offering free unlimited mobile data to WhatsApp users. PHOTO: EPA

SINGAPORE - New virtual mobile telco Circles.Life has launched in Singapore, letting subscribers make unlimited WhatsApp calls and send unlimited videos and messages without touching their monthly data allowance, giving local telcos a run for their money.

Also free is caller number display, a feature that local telcos Singtel, StarHub and M1 charge a $5 monthly fee for their line-only plans.

"We are here to bring power back to the digital customer," said Rameez Ansar, co-founder of Circles.Life.

US-based Internet statistics firm Statista estimates that more than 70 per cent of mobile Internet users in Singapore are on WhatsApp. Globally, WhatsApp users number more than a billion.

At one glance, Circles.Life's line-only plans are not the cheapest. Line-only plans do not come with subsidised handsets, and is a hotly contested space with Singtel, StarHub and M1 slugging it out for the cheapest offers as recently as November last year (2015).

Circles.Life's 3GB data plan that comes with 100 minutes of outgoing calls is going for $28 a month. As a launch promotion, subscribers get 2GB of bonus data, but it is not known when the promotion will end.

Comparatively, similar plans from rivals Singtel, StarHub and M1 are going for $20 to $25 a month.

"We have to be competitive. I'm not going to chase prices," said Mr Rameez. "I want to give consumers the best deal and customer service, and flexibility."

Circles.Life is the brand of two-year-old local start-up Liberty Wireless, which has obtained a service-based operator licence from the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA).

As a virtual operator, it does not own or build physical networks but instead leases mobile network capacity from telco M1.

It is different from fibre broadband provider MyRepublic and OMGTel - whose parent company Consistel supplied Sports Hub with wireless systems - which have plans to build their own mobile networks islandwide to become the fourth telco here.

The last high-profile virtual mobile operator launch was by Virgin Mobile in 2001. But Virgin Mobile, which leased wholesale from Singtel, exited Singapore a year later.

Asked what has changed since then, Circles.Life co-founder Abhishek Gupta said: "A lot of technologies are only available now to allow us to... be asset light and focus on servicing the customer. That is something that a lot of mobile virtual network operators had tried but could not do."

For instance, its CirclesCare app gives customers a personalised dashboard to allow them to tweak their plans such as top up mobile data or buy talk-time. The changes will be reflected in the next billing cycle, which follows the calendar month.

Subscribers can earn bonus mobile data of up to 4GB a month for referring their friends to sign up as customers. The amount of bonus mobile data earned depends on how long they have been a subscriber.

Circles.Life has also partnered DBS and UOB to offer customers interest-free instalment payments for handsets, including the latest ones from Apple, Samsung and LG.

Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated that unused data can be rolled over to the next month. This has been corrected.

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