SingTel Admits Wireless Broadband is Slow, Promises Improvements

Even amid the increasing preference for mobile Internet access, Singapore-based SingTel admits that its wireless service is slow, compared with other carriers. The biggest telecommunications firm in Southeast Asia has promised to improve its services, with faster speeds and more reliable connections.

SingTel admits its mobile broadband service is slow, and promises to improve speed and reliability with network upgrades. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

According to a recent Google study, Singapore offers one of the slowest mobile broadband speeds in the region, even with the city-state being a major business hub in the region. A website takes an average of 12 seconds to load in the country, compared with Hong Kong’s 4.6 seconds and South Korea’s 6 seconds.

Malaysia and Indonesia lag behind Singapore, but even Vietnam has faster mobile speeds.

SingTel has about 50% of Singapore’s mobile market, with M1 and Starhub comprising the rest. The company has dropped unlimited data plans to help ease congestion, and has also offered higher-end “Priority Pass” plans for faster data speeds. SingTel also offers a 4G network in high-use areas and central business districts, which offer support for LTE-enabled devices like the new iPad. M1 likewise carries a 4G network in high-use areas, while StarHub will offer 4G within the year.

The Google study only takes into account locally-hosted websites. However, telcos should take into account that 70% of websites accessed from Singapore are overseas, says J.P. Morgan head of Asia telecom research James Sullivan. As such, improving local broadband speeds will only do so much in improving Internet access speeds. With the bottleneck involving access to content hosted internationally, telcos will need to lay out more communications cables or satellite uplinks in order to support demand.

Singtel reported a 30% increase in profit in the first quarter of 2012, with SG$ 1.25 billion (US$ 1.03 billion) compared with SG$ 992 million (US$ 793.98 million) in Q1 2011, aided by a SG$ 270 million (US$ 216.10 million) tax credit.