Telcos close in on 1Gbps mobile surfing speed

The race is on to up the ante on mobile surfing speeds as all three local telcos Singtel, StarHub and M1 strive to enter Usain Bolt territory in Singapore.

And much faster surfing speeds of more than 1Gbps are on the horizon.

On Wednesday, Singtel said it had completed upgrading its 4G mobile network across the island, bringing its top surfing speed to 450Mbps, up from 300Mbps previously.

With this, it has surpassed StarHub and M1 to offer the fastest peak mobile surfing speed in Singapore.

StarHub and M1 currently offer a top mobile surfing speed of 300Mbps across the country.

But they are preparing their networks to offer speeds of more than 1Gbps as early as the end of this year.

Singtel, meanwhile, said it plans to offer a mobile surfing speed of up to 1Gbps as early as this year at high-traffic locations such as the Central Business District.

These developments put Singapore one step closer to the next frontier: 5G services, which are said to be more than 10 times faster than 4G ones.

Last week, M1 conducted a 5G trial and reached a peak surfing speed of 35Gbps.

Mr Clement Teo, principal analyst at market research firm Ovum, said: "The faster speeds will likely accommodate more devices, such as Web-enabled light bulbs, as they come online."

Singtel's 450Mbps upgrade means that its 4G customers can download a two-hour 720p high-definition film in less than two minutes instead of close to three minutes on the older 4G network, the telco said.

Mr Yuen Kuan Moon, chief executive officer of Singtel's consumer Singapore unit, said "with more customers consuming and sharing mobile videos, 450Mbps will enable them to download movies in a flash and give them a better entertainment experience while on the go".

But there is a catch.

To enjoy the new speeds, customers need compatible phones, many of which will be launched only in the next few months.

Current compatible models are the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 edge.

LG V20 users will be able to take advantage of the new surfing speeds after a software update in the next few months.

Mr Chong Siew Loong, head of network engineering at StarHub, said although the telco has been testing technologies that offer mobile surfing speeds of more than 1Gbps, it is prepared to deploy them for customers only when it gets more blocks of mobile frequencies from the authorities.

A mobile frequencies auction is slated to take place by March.

The launch of more compatible phone models is also another determining factor, added Mr Chong.

Mr Denis Seek, M1's chief technical officer, said the telco's customers can surf at up to 1Gbps islandwide by the end of the year with the roll-out of its heterogeneous network, which allows users to hop across 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi networks.

"We expect to deploy 5G technology when technology standards are finalised (by 2020) and when mainstream 5G consumer devices are available."

This article was first published on Jan 13, 2017.
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