LIVE FROM LTE ASIA 2014: SingTel plans to consolidate its network infrastructure by shutting down its 2G network in two to three years and then reuse the spectrum.
Kuan Moon Yuen, SingTel’s CEO for its consumer unit in Singapore, said the benefit of 4G to operators is being able to “move everyone up the curve, then we can shut down our 2G network and reuse that spectrum.”
A major benefit of 4G to operators is of course a more efficient network (almost two times as efficient as 3G). But he said the real reason is to consolidate the network to “make it leaner, so you don’t have to operate multiple networks”.
Giving a keynote at LTE Asia today, Yuen said SingTel launched VoLTE across Singapore last year. Customers are recognising the higher quality, but he said that they are not willing to pay more for high-quality voice, as operators around the world have found.
He explained that VoLTE is important to operators because it’s not efficient to run two networks to support 4G since they have to fall back to 3G for voice. “Let’s move everybody over to 4G and VoLTE. But we need devices makers to come to the party. The ecosystem has to be there.”
One big plus for VoLTE is that call set-up times are cut to less than two seconds from about 10 seconds with 3G.
Yuen said LTE is about speed. “Once you give them the taste of speed, they want more — everywhere. We have to continuously enhance our coverage in elevators, car parks, etc.”
Adoption of LTE has been four times faster than 3G, he said. It took 3G 32 months to overtake 2G; it took only 17 months for 4G to surpass 3G. This was due to a number of factors, such as more LTE-ready phones at the time of launch and a compressed technology cycle, which has quickly brought down the cost of phones and allowed 4G to go mainstream in just two years.
He said 90 per cent of the phones sold are now 4G. 4G users consume twice as much data as 3G users. “We’re also seeing adoption in the prepaid segment – tourists want 4G.”
The operator’s 4G customers make up 35 per cent of its users base but account for 40 per cent of data traffic.
He said many customers now don’t want to offload to Wi-Fi – even at home because they’ll have to downgrade to 15-18Mb/s.