Whenever we have free time, we find no higher pleasure than being on our mobile phones and using data intensive apps. In fact, according to a Circles.Life survey conducted in 2017, half of the survey respondents in Singapore mentioned that they can last only one day without consuming data. Also, one in two respondents in the same survey mentioned that they regularly exceeded their data quota, with 24% exceeding it by at least 3GB. Given the importance mobile data plays in our lives and the costs associated with data consumption, it is worthwhile to ask whether Singaporeans are overpaying for their data, especially in comparison to other countries, and what they can do to reduce these data costs further.
Singapore’s Mobile Data Consumption
According to the Govt. statistics, Singaporeans consumed 15.8 Petabytes monthly in the last reported quarter of 2017. With a population of 5.6 million, this would imply a per capita monthly data consumption of about 2.8GB. This is actually much lower than data consumption per capita in similar countries like Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. For instance, Koreans consumed about 3.5GB per month per capita, while Taiwanese consumed about 7.4GB per month per capita.
Data Costs in Singapore vs Other Countries in Asia
How do mobile data costs in Singapore compare to those in similar other places like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Japan? According to our analysis, Singaporeans actually spend a lot less on their mobile data plans than their peers in other countries, especially when it comes to basic plans. For example, the costs for basic plans (5GB of data) are about S$4.4 per 1 GB in Singapore.
In comparison, other countries have plans that are far more expensive than the plans that ranged from S$8 to S$11 per 1 GB. Perhaps, the difference in pricing might be due the difference in data consumption per capita. In fact, the data consumption in Singapore has also been growing more slowly than in other countries, which may explain the more competitive pricing by its service providers.
Options to Minimise Data Costs
While mobile data plans in Singapore are already quite competitive, there are still many ways you can reduce the cost of your mobile plans even further.
Reduce Your Data Consumption
There are couple ways of making sure you don't use data unnecessarily. First, everyone should always utilise Wi-Fi wherever possible. Cable is charged on a fixed cost basis (not on usage basis), so you should build a habit of looking for Wi-Fi connections whenever you are indoors.
Secondly, you can use your phone's data usage tracker or your carrier's app to monitor your data consumption regularly. Generally, apps like Google Map, Youtube, Facebook and dating apps are always running in the background unless you shut them off. This exercise is especially important for location based apps like maps and dating apps, as they tend to be quite intensive in data and battery usage. One can also turn off automated updates for apps while on cellular, and also disable features such as the ones which allow Facebook to start videos automatically. You can also look at using offline, downloaded Google Maps instead of the live version, and use apps such as ‘Onavo Extend’ which help to compress data.
Choosing the Right Plan
Once you've decreased your data usage, you should make sure to choose a mobile plan that is optimal for your specific needs. For example, "free phone" plans, though tempting, come with their own expensive set plans which you may not need. Also, you can pick lower data plans if you find that you are data consumption hasn't been as high as you expected; given that a 12GB plan can set you back by S$239.9 per month, going for a lower data plan can potentially save you a substantial amount of money.
One can also check if one is eligible for family, corporate or student plans that are generally cheaper than individual plans. Combining two plans into one is an especially helpful tip for long-term couples who are planning on moving-in together. For example, Singtel’s youth combo plans allow for free upgrades on combo mobile plans, unlimited SMS/MMS messages and campus/camp calls, while its corporate plan provides for free SIM and waiving off of registration fees, as well as discounts of upto S$200 on phone devices.
Utilising Credit Rebates
Lastly, consumers can look at enrolling for specific credit cards that offer benefits like rebates or vouchers on mobile plans. There are many cash back credit cards in Singapore that offer rebates on monthly recurring bills that can help you reduce your mobile bills by several percentage points. For example, HSBC Visa Platinum Card provides 5% rebate on monthly telecommunication bills, while OCBC 365 Cardprovides 3% rebate on recurring telco bills.
All in all, Singapore offers extremely competitive prices on its starting data and mobile plans–however, we can also take a step further by using these mobile data plans in the most informed, effective and apt way possible.
This was first published at Value Penguin's website, "Are Singaporeans Overpaying for Their Mobile Plans?".