Singapore’s three established mobile operators all announced heavy data discounts for their postpaid 4G customers within 24 hours of mobile hopeful MyRepublic posting its proposed mobile data tariffs, if it wins the fourth licence, on its website.

The ISP announced last week it will introduce unlimited data tariffs for SGD80 (about $58) a month as well as offer 2GB data plans for just SGD8 per month. For its existing broadband customers, unlimited plans will be just SGD60/month and 2GB of data will go for SGD6 a month.

The next morning Singtel launched its DataX2 add-on plan that doubles its postpaid customers’ mobile data for a flat fee of SGD5.90 per month. A user on a 2GB plan would get 4GB a month by paying the flat fee (SGD48.90 total), while a 12GB customer (the top tier since it doesn’t offer unlimited plans) would move to 24GB a month by paying an additional SGD5.90 (SGD245.90 total).

M1 later in the day announced a similar plan – its “Upsize Data” bundles – that also gives customers additional data for SGD5.90 a month. And by the end of the day number two player StarHub had introduced a 3GB-for-SGD3 “data upsize” option. For an additional SGD3.00, a 3GB user doubles the data allocation to 6GB (SGD45.90 total) and a 12GB user moves to 15GB (SGD223 total).

Price correction
The timing of the announcements it seems was aimed at the big IT Show in Singapore last week, rather than a pure reaction to MyRepublic’s promise to cut data rates significantly.

Forrester senior analyst Clement Teo told Mobile World Live that the discounts were more of a “price correction” than the start of a price war – a step to match plans with the huge amounts of bandwidth most apps now consume.

“I’d doubt if the new pricing will shift their market share of the consumer base by much, given that the base entry pricing remains about the same – the discounts are for additional bandwidth,” he said.

Two months after the telecoms regulator proposed in July setting aside spectrum at a lower reserve price in a separate auction to be open only to new entrants, the country’s three mobile operators came out strongly against the measures to encourage a fourth player and said the small market doesn’t need additional competition. All three operators submitted comments to the Infocomms Development Authority’s public consultation.

Singtel was quite blunt in stating: “IDA’s proposition that new entrants will provide scope for greater competition and service innovation is not supported by evidence and is contrary to the commonly held position that the market is competitive”.

How competitive?
The deep discounts the operators rushed to announce certainly won’t help push their case with the regulator that the market is sufficiently competitive.

Last month IDA released a detailed framework for the previously announced spectrum allocation and lowered the reserve price for the 60MHz of spectrum that will be set aside for a new operator to SGD35 million ($25 million) from SGD40 million and doubled the allocation of spectrum in the 2.3GHz band to 40MHz.

The three operators have been uncharacteristically silent on those added incentives to ease the path for the entry of a new player and intensify competition.

Forrester’s Teo noted this latest reaction shows that a new player can certainly be a catalyst for more competitive pricing.

As usual, the louder the incumbents shriek, the more a market is ready for a newcomer to shake up the status quo, where 12GB a month will set you back SGD240 ($174) – or SGD246 for 24GB with the new 2x discount.

The IDA obviously sees room for improvement and is committed to pushing the case.

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.