Singaporeans today are familiar with mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), thanks to Circles Life penetrating into the market in 2016.
Since then, more MVNOs have flooded the scene.
This is great news for all of us because more competition is equivalent to lower prices! The 3 newest MNVOs that have joined the fray mid-2019 are redONE, ViViFi and Grid Mobile.
How do they offer dirt-cheap data plans and what other benefits do they provide?
What are MNVOs?
An MNVO is a service provider that does not have its own wireless network infrastructure. Instead, they lease network services from one of the local network providers — Singtel, M1 or Starhub — at a cost.
They then resell network services to consumers at a lower price under their own branding. Typically, they offer SIM-only plans that do not tie consumers down to a 2-year contract.
An MNVO does not need to lease rental space. They can also operate everything digitally through low-cost software, which leads to minimal manpower cost. This keeps its cost structure low, in turn giving consumers better savings on their mobile plans.
redONE first launched in Singapore recently in May 2019 and offers plans from as low as $8. At $8/month, you get 3GB, 100 minutes of talk time and 10 SMSes, which is great for people who use their phones only for basic stuff.
The other two plans are at $18 (for 6GB, 200 min talk time and 20 SMSes) and $28 (for 10GB, 300 min talk time and 30 SMSes).
redONE uses StarHub’s mobile network infrastructure to deliver their services. Users have free data roaming in Malaysia, free unlimited calls to redONE users including those in Malaysia and no additional charges for calling and texting Malaysian numbers.
So, if you are a fan of weekend travels to Johor Bahru for good food, or if you are a Malaysian working in Singapore with family back home, this plan works seamlessly for you.
redONE’s plan is suitable for those who travel frequently to Malaysia or have family, friends and business connections in Malaysia.
ViViFi is the newest MNVO player in Singapore having just launched in July 2019 and uses Singtel’s mobile network infrastructure.
Their unique selling point is that instead of personal mobile plans, they offer mobile plans that can be shared. This means one mobile plan for the entire family.
The ViViFi share plan is at $29.90 a month for 20GB, 200 minutes of talk time and 100 SMSes and you get to share this with up to 9 users. Each user just has to top up $5.35 per month. For the first year of use, each additional user gets extra 2GB to themselves per month. Perks like free caller ID, free incoming calls and SMSes and no registration fees apply to all additional users too.
Let’s take a family of 4 as an example. The monthly mobile fees will be $29.90 + ($5.35 x 3) = $49.95. 20GB divided amongst 4 family members will be 5GB/person. Add this to the extra 2GB each additional user gets, that is 7GB/additional user for an average of $11.50 per person.
This actually sounds pretty good, since redOne’s $8 plan only offers 3GB.
If 20GB per month is insufficient for the family, users can top up at a range of prices, $10 (up to 6GB), $20 (up to 18GB), $30 (up to 30GB) and $4.28 per GB (for more than 30GB).
Talking time and SMSes can be topped up at additional cost too.
For those who have young children or senior citizens, who don’t need to use that much data, in their families, they would be most suited for ViViFi's plans.
Grid Mobile was launched in Singapore in June 2019 and is a joint venture between Singtel and ST Telemedia.
Their branding is colourful, fun and bold, so you can likely guess who their target audience is. “Millennials”, who else! Apparently, the plan integrates mobile services with lifestyle enjoyment like shopping, food and entertainment.
Grid Mobile focuses on just one plan at $24.90 for 20GB, free incoming calls, 200 minutes of outgoing calls and 200 SMSes. It also has free-roaming in Malaysia up to 1GB. While this doesn’t sound particularly attractive, there’s more.
Users are also given a free buddy SIM that has 1GB data, free incoming calls, 25 minutes of outgoing talk time, free caller ID and 25 SMSes. This is great to give to an elderly or a young child in your family so that you can contact them for emergencies. However, note that the buddy SIM is chargeable at $14.90/month after the first year.
Perhaps the best thing about Grid Mobile is their gridRewards system. You get points on your birthday, for staying with them and for referring your friends. Points can then be used to offset your bill, get cashback on your credit/debit card or be spent on any of gridRewards’ merchants.
Grid Mobile has a variety of merchants including Grab, Spotify, Lazada, Zalora, Marché Mövenpick, Cathay Cineplexes – just to name a few.
Let’s find out how the point system works:
First, you get 50 points/month as long as you stay with Grid Mobile, you also get 200 bonus points on your birthday.
To get more points, refer your friends. For a limited time now until promotion ends, each time you refer a friend, both you and your friend get 250 points/month for 3 months. Thereafter, you continue to earn 50 points/month per referral as long as your friend sticks with Grid Mobile. The table below illustrates this clearly.
|Subscription month||Your points||Your friend’s points|
|4||50||Refer your friends!|
Every 100 points are equivalent to $1. When you have reached 1,000 points and more, your bill will automatically be offset. When you have reached 5,000 points and more, you automatically get cashback.
Plus, UOB YOLO cardholders will enjoy an exclusive 8% cashback when they pay their Grid Mobile bills with the UOB YOLO card.
Those who want to enjoy good deals and rewards through paying for their mobile plans would be most suited for plans offered by Grid Mobile
Digital telcos in Singapore — Price comparison
In this comparison, we have included Singtel GOMO and Starhub GIGA. Even though they are not MNVOs, you can sign up and use their services entirely online and they follow the SIM Only model.
|Digital Telcos||Price||Data||Talktime||SMSes||Additional features|
|TPG||$0||Unlimited (2GB/day at 4G speeds, thereafter at lower speeds)||Unlimited||20||Free-roaming in Malaysia & Indonesia (new TPG mobile numbers, first 12 mths)|
|Singtel GOMO||$20||20 GB||200 min outgoing, free incoming||200||Roaming Data Pump can be purchased at $10 for 1GB data at 10 destinations for 10 days|
|Grid Mobile||$24.90||20 GB||200 min outgoing||200||Free 1GB to use in Malaysia, free buddy SIM|
|Starhub GIGA||$25||25 GB||1,000 min outgoing||1,000||Free data rollover up to 2 months|
|Circles Life||$28||20 GB||100 min outgoing||25||$18 for the first year|
|redONE||$28||10 GB||300 min outgoing, unlimited among redONE users||30||Data, talk time and SMS can be used in Malaysia, with Malaysia numbers|
|ViViFi||$29.90||20GB||300 min outgoing||100||Able to add users for $5.35/month|
|MyRepublic||$35||12 GB + unlimited data at slower speeds after 12GB||1000 min outgoing||1,000||–|
|Zero Mobile||$49.95||Unlimited||100 min outgoing||100||–|
The 3 newest MVNOs offer mobile plans that are competitively priced against the existing ones. They each offer something new and different to the market too.
Grid Mobile is the first to offer a comprehensive rewards system with several partner merchants. ViViFi is the first to offer a shareable plan, which is great for families and redONE has the best plan for using in both Singapore and Malaysia.
But unless you’re paying for your family or need a ridiculous amount of talk time, we reckon you don’t need to spend more than $25 per month on your telco bill. Really makes you wonder how come Singaporeans have been shelling out $30 to $60 on phone plans all these years, right?
Of course, when it comes to actual usage, many other factors come into play. Customer service, network quality, honesty in pricing, etc are important too. But if you are not tied to a contract, why not give one of these new MNVOs a try? Don’t try don’t know, right?
And if you don’t like it, you can always cancel with no strings attached. That’s the best part about these SIM-only plans.
With so many mobile plans and service providers to choose from, which one will you go for?
This article was first published in MoneySmart. Permission required for reproduction.