Circles.Life's free mobile plan - with catch

To keep line, buy add-on every 3 months or use it as primary line

Amid a mobile price war, a telco is offering consumers a free SIM card as well as 1GB of free mobile data, 30 minutes' talk time and 10 SMS every month.

So what's the catch?

Circles.Life, which rolled out its $0/month Flexi Plan yesterday, said consumers need to buy a service add-on once every three months to keep their line.

For instance, the latest version of its CirclesCare app offers 30 minutes of talk time for $5 (this is the cheapest service add-on), a 1GB mobile data add-on for $8 a month or a 2GB add-on for $12 a month.

Consumers can also keep their line and the freebies that come with it as long as they use it as a primary number, said Circles.Life, adding that proof of this is when consumers port over an existing mobile number or when they receive one-time passwords for online banking and shopping via the line.

The line and its maintenance come at a cost to Circles.Life. So if it is not actively used, it may be terminated after three months - similar to the industry practice for prepaid phone lines.

Said Circles.Life co-founder Rameez Ansar as he announced the offer: "We believe in empowering people by making digital access more available to everyone... with no strings attached."

The $0/month Flexi Plan is aimed at the elderly and users who want to get a line for their second mobile device.

Consumers need not sign a service contract for this plan, just like the other plans that Circles.Life sells. Its most popular plan, which comes with 6GB of mobile data, costs $28 a month. It also allows customers to add on 20GB of data for $20 more a month.

Circles.Life is what is dubbed a virtual telco, which does not build its own physical mobile networks, but leases them wholesale from an existing telco. Circles.Life leases from M1.

The other three virtual telcos here are fibre broadband service operator MyRepublic, Zero1 and Zero Mobile. MyRepublic leases mobile network capacity from StarHub, while Zero1 and Zero Mobile both lease from Singtel.

Last week, MyRepublic announced two mobile plans - a 1GB mobile data plan at $8 a month and an 80GB mobile data plan at $80 a month - offered only to its current fibre broadband subscribers and select customers.

It said it will be offering services to other customers "soon".

MyRepublic's unique "boundless data" feature for all mobile plans promises customers they will not be charged for exceeding their data limit. Instead, it will reduce customers' surfing speeds.

Zero1 offers the cheapest unlimited mobile data plan at $29.99 a month, but it slows down users' surfing speeds after they exceed 3GB of usage.

Meanwhile, Zero Mobile has a customer referral programme that allows subscribers to earn credits to drive down their monthly bill. Its unlimited data plan costs $69.95 a month.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2018, with the headline 'Circles.Life's free mobile plan - with catch'. Print Edition | Subscribe