ISPs slash prices to woo cable users

A broadband price war has emerged as Internet service providers (ISPs) take aim at some 360,000 cable modem users whose service may be discontinued by the end of next year.

Sources said that StarHub's existing network leasing agreement with Singtel - which is crucial for the former's cable broadband and TV services - is coming to an end next year.

Should StarHub choose to end the lease, its cable services will cease, making its 360,000 customers a prime target for ISPs eager to expand their customer base.

When contacted, StarHub chief marketing officer Howie Lau said: "We will ensure smooth transition for our customers, from cable to our fibre broadband services."

Mr Lau also urged cable customers to subscribe to its fibre broadband plans.

Read also: Cable, fibre broadband services: StarHub clarifies

The Straits Times understands that a decision has yet to be made to end or continue with the Singtel lease.

In April, StarHub slashed the monthly price for its 300Mbps package from $49.90 to $29 - the cheapest offer yet - as part of early efforts to retain its cable broadband customers.

But other ISPs also sniffed out the opportunity. Last month, M1 matched the StarHub deal with its own $29-a-month 300Mbps plan.

Tomorrow, ViewQwest - which has so far been focusing on ultra-fast plans with surfing speeds of 1Gbps or higher - will also be offering a 350Mbps fibre broadband plan for $29 a month.

"This group of users may not need high-speed plans, but they will be looking to switch to a good fibre broadband provider," said Vignesa Moorthy, chief executive of ViewQwest.

Mike Ang, president of the Association of Telecommunications Industry of Singapore, said that the switch from older technologies such as cable to fibre is inevitable.

"Cable technologies which are capable of surfing speeds of up to around 100Mbps are old and will eventually be retired," he said.

Fibre broadband services debuted here in September 2010 offering 10 to 100 times faster surfing than older broadband technologies like cable and Digital Subscriber Line (DSL).

Now, more than 968,000 - or seven in 10 - households are on fibre broadband plans, according to the statistics from the Infocomm Development Authority.

Clement Teo, a senior analyst at market research firm Forrester, attributed the huge demand for fibre broadband to aggressive promotions. "Today, a 1Gbps plan can be bought for only $39 a month," he said.

Comparatively, a 6Mbps DSL plan from Singtel - which is more than 100 times slower - cost $29.90 a month in 2013.

See also: Fiber broadband: Know what you're signing up for

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