New price war for fibre broadband

SINGAPORE - Many things can happen in seven months. Back in March, there was competition among service providers to offer fibre-broadband plans with top speeds of 150Mbps.

Now, the price war has moved on to 200Mbps. In some instances, prices for other fibre plans have also fallen.

We can thank telco M1 for slashing prices at June's consumer-electronics fair, the PC Show.

Then, M1 served up a 200Mbps plan for $39 a month on a two-year contract. The promotion is still valid, for now.

The telco's 200Mbps plan during March's IT Show was at a higher promotional price of $49, while its 100Mbps plan was $39.

Other service providers have also caught up. SingTel and StarHub's 200Mbps plans with two-year contracts are now at $49.90. They were $59.90 and $102.93 respectively in March. ViewQwest's 200Mbps plan had a list price of $95.95 in the same month. It's now $59.95 on a one-year contract.

But some providers no longer offer 150Mbps plans, namely M1, SingTel, StarHub and ViewQwest. SingTel and ViewQwest don't have 100Mbps plans too, while StarHub dropped $10 off its own to $39.90.

ViewQwest explained it as an upgrade to existing plans, with the 150Mbps plan being bumped up to 200Mbps.

On the issue, StarHub said: "Singapore's broadband market is very competitive... This is why besides price competitiveness, we continue to introduce new features and bundle value-added services."

Other plans have become cheaper. M1 offered a 300Mbps plan at the PC Show for $49 a month (still valid, for now). SingTel and StarHub's 300Mbps plans go for $59.90, down from $79.90 in March.

ViewQwest upgraded its 200Mbps plan to 300Mbps, then to 400Mbps, between March and late August. The 400Mbps plan now costs $95.95.

A MyRepublic spokesman said that it sees a trend here in which broadband prices are dropping as adoption and penetration increase, like in South Korea and Hong Kong.

And the price war could have hooked more people. OpenNet, builder of the fibre-optic Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (NBN), said that, as of this month, there are over 400,000 residential and corporate fibre subscribers, up from 290,000 at the end of January.

Whether prices will fall further depends on things like the wholesale prices for fibre broadband. The former is up in the air as Nucleus Connect, which manages the NBN, is still reviewing prices.

But - unless you download or upload a lot of data online, such as when streaming videos or playing online games - the fibre speed boost for surfing websites and checking Facebook might not matter much if you're on a slower 10Mbps ADSL broadband plan.

Ms Sherlin Pang, senior research manager for communications research at IDC Asia Pacific, said that the use of very-high- intensive bandwidth applications and services "will definitely drive demand" for fibre broadband.

This could include streaming of ultra-high-definition videos, which are said to be four times sharper than existing full-high-definition videos.

If you're worried over fibre service disruptions after the Oct 9 SingTel facility fire, you might want to wait and see what comes out of the investigation. Then again, we've had disruptions, even on slower broadband services.

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