Local telcos' way of selling 4G services as an add-on to 3G plans may not be a common practice in overseas markets, but telcos are saying that it provides customers with flexibility.
This approach came under intense scrutiny after StarHub's move on Tuesday to charge for its 4G add-on service that has all along been free. Even those on contracts would not be spared from the price changes.
While StarHub said that free 4G access was a promotion with an expiration date as indicated in its brochures and on its website, customers claimed they were not aware it was an add-on. They thought they had bought a 4G plan, along with their 4G handsets.
Explaining its approach, Mr Tian Ung Ping, StarHub's assistant vice-president of mobility, said that 4G was a new technology when it was launched two years ago. As an add-on, customers have "the flexibility to experience the latest technology amid a limited choice of supported handsets".
From June, StarHub customers need to pay $2.14 a month for its 4G Speed Boost add-on that allows surfing at up to 75Mbps, twice as fast as 3G. Customers can choose to pay up or opt out.
Flexibility was also cited by M1 as the key reason for providing 4G services as an add-on, instead of as a standard plan that ties customers down to a two-year contract. It said the terms were clearly communicated in its marketing materials.
Meanwhile, a SingTel spokesman assured customers that if it were to change its price plans or promotions, the changes would apply only to new or re-contracting customers.
The two telcos are expected to start charging for their 4G add-on services, free for now. SingTel did not state when its promotion will end except at "a date SingTel determines", whereas M1's promotion will end on Dec 31 this year.
This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.
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