Sean Aw is Marketing Manager for Singapore operator Singtel, who have been nominated for two awards at the LTE Asia Awards, taking place at the Marina Bay Sands on the 24th September. Here we find out more about Singtel’s network development and its plans for the future.
You’ve been nominated at the inaugural LTE Asia awards for two awards. Why do you think your products have attracted the attention of the judges?
Singapore’s vibrant economy necessitates a fast and reliable mobile connectivity. SingTel has more than 130 years of operating experience and has played a pivotal role in the country’s development as a major communications hub. We are Singapore’s leading mobile operator with the largest customer base and share of mobile revenue and SingTel continues to serve its customers with the best that technology has to offer. The latest LTE technology is one such example. SingTel was the first to bring in LTE service to the Singapore market in Dec 2011 and was the first to launch LTE with speeds of up to 150Mbps through cutting edge MIMO technology.
Recently, SingTel also pushed the boundaries further by working closely with our handset partner, Samsung and network vendor, Ericsson to introduce two of the world’s first commercial service, fully featured VoLTE service with a full suite of telephony services, and also a 300Mbps smartphone service based on LTE-Advanced technology.
What are the main challenges you expect to face over the next 12-18 months?
With faster LTE speeds and better devices we expect increasing demand for mobile data. SingTel will continue to upgrade its network to deliver the best and most efficient LTE service. This includes acquiring more spectrum, deployment of a HetNet and Wi-Fi.
The digital revolution has changed the way people live, work and play. SingTel aims to provide an outstanding customer experience that is beyond delivering superior networks. For example we have worked with WhatsApp and Facebook to launch app-based data plans for the prepaid market. We have also recently launched the SingTel Accelerator Challenge to seek out new technologies and solutions to deepen our customer relationships.
From your experience, what is the key to correct pricing for LTE?
SingTel believes that facilitating simplicity, enabling personalisation and enhancing value are crucial to optimal LTE pricing. In June 2014, SingTel introduced Easy Mobile, the first postpaid mobile service in Asia to enable monthly customization of voice, SMS and data bundle. Users who need more LTE data can choose a higher data bundle and smaller voice call bundle.
We deploy LTE to enhance our customers’ experience with mobile data. Our pricing philosophy is to avoid charging a premium for LTE. The key reason is that we have a 3G network that provides very good quality of use to our mobile data customers. Premium pricing for LTE will simply hinder customer adoption of LTE services. To accommodate customers’ concerns that the data bundle is used up too fast, we offer a Premium grade Wi-Fi offload solution. Customers are given additional data allowances to be used on the Wi-Fi network. This premium grade Wi-Fi is bundled in our new Post-paid Combo plans, with extra voice calls of up to 200 minutes and 500 SMS messages.
The key benefit of a full-featured VoLTE service is the ability to enjoy crystal-clear quality conversations that are distinctively clearer than conventional mobile voice services. The service delivers a broader range of audio frequencies, resulting in richer and more true-to-life sound with noticeably reduced background noise. In a test conducted amongst 1,100 participants at dense locations, 80 per cent of the participants favoured the better sound quality and were delighted that calls were connected in less than two seconds (which is up to five times faster than conventional mobile calls). For SingTel, VoLTE is the evolution of our basic voice and IMS messaging services that will help us to engage customers in new, better and exciting ways.
As for LTE-Advanced, customers can expect faster download speeds of up to 300Mbps. This will improve the experience of watching videos on the move or downloading large files and applications. The new technologies also bring about cost efficiencies that would enable SingTel to introduce more innovative and relevant services for customers.
As we begin to look toward 5G, what developments can we expect in the network over the next two years?
We expect an increasing usage of video traffic over the next two years. SingTel is setting up trials for LTE Broadcast technology that will enhance the experience of watching live video and HD video. The network will also evolve to support 5G technologies.
There is an increased interest from the industry to explore new technologies after LTE-Advanced to address the long-term business requirements around and beyond the year 2020. Several R&D institutes, vendors and operators have announced such technology plans recently and termed them as “5G”. The actual “5G” work has just started and “5G” technology has not been defined by any international standardization bodies so far. It will still be several years before “5G” becomes standardized and commercially available.
SingTel is a member of many world-wide organizations in the telecommunication industry, such as the NGMN (Next Generation Mobile Network) Alliance, the GSMA and others. SingTel has been closely monitoring all new technology trends including the future “5G”, and actively participating in such technology development and adoption.
In the next two to three years SingTel will continue to upgrade and enhance its LTE-Advanced network to possibly include new solutions such as LTE Broadcast and Multicast, HetNet and Smallcells with COMP (Coordinated Multiple Point), higher-order MIMO (multiple input multiple output), carrier aggregation of more channels and bands. SingTel will also continue with its SON (Self-Organized Networks) evolution to achieve excellent network performance and further improve operational efficiency. SingTel will explore setting up 5G in Singapore as early as possible once the 5G technology standard is finalized.
What are you most looking forward to with regard to the LTE Asia conference?
We are looking forward to sharing our LTE deployment experience, learning from other operators and industry partners, collaborating and discovering new breakthrough opportunities to accelerate the evolution of our core communications services. We are committed to serve our customers better and excite them with new communication possibilities.