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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Kicking the mobile data habit

Ever since the telcos slashed the 12GB of bundled data to 2GB with each new subscription, I have been monitoring my monthly mobile data usage to see how I would fare should the time come for me to make the switch.
The Straits Times - April 25, 2013
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Kicking the mobile data habit

By Sherwin Loh

Ever since the telcos slashed the 12GB of bundled data to 2GB with each new subscription, I have been monitoring my monthly mobile data usage to see how I would fare should the time come for me to make the switch.

I am sad to say that I have failed most months, despite trying very hard.

I have two phones and two separate SIM cards. One is my primary phone line linked to my personal e-mail account. On it, I also play two games that require an online connection.

The other is my secondary device that is linked to my office e-mail and is also connected to my WhatsApp messaging app.

I switch between both devices to check Facebook and Instagram, and use my secondary device for Google Navigation when needed.

The phones aren't tethered to anything and I rarely watch YouTube videos on them.

So how is it that on most months, I hover near the 2GB limit on at least one phone, and have even crossed the line on occasion?

I shudder to think of what would happen if I had only one phone and one line - how much more would I need to pay each month to surf the Web on my phone?

My colleague pointed out that with my use of the same social networks on both devices, I am effectively pulling the same content on two phones. He also pointed out that I should stop updating my Google Play apps over the air, and switch over to Wi-Fi for those activities instead.

While I do not doubt his reasons, I wonder which part of my usage can be considered excessive and how the three telcos came up with the 2GB limit in the first place.

When the news first broke that they were doing away with the 12GB limit, I predicted that telcos were lowering the amount not as a means of controlling bandwidth hoggers, but in anticipation of upcoming services that require an always-on connection to work.

They knew, as I did, that more online data-consuming services were coming. By lowering the limit, users would be forced to pay more if they wanted extra.

And I was right. Last week, Swedish music service Spotify launched a premium service here, where users can stream music directly to their smartphones and tablets.

Naturally, the more users listen, the more data they would consume, which is exactly what the telcos are banking on.

In fact, their plan has worked. In the recent quarterly report from M1, the telco said that its share of service revenue from non-voice services rose 2.6 per cent year on year to 39.5 per cent, driven by growth in data usage by smartphone customers.

And I expect these numbers to keep increasing as consumers find it more difficult to curb their reliance and use of data on their mobile devices.

Months after M1 rolled out its nationwide LTE/4G network, SingTel finally rolled theirs out yesterday. StarHub's is slated for the end of the year.

One upside from faster speeds is that consumers will find it easier to get connected and stay that way.

This can be during their early morning commute to work, during their lunch break or over the weekend, while they are lounging by the pool.

The general rule for users is to always switch to a Wi-Fi network when it is available, to stay within their monthly limit.

But when 4G proves to be much faster and more reliable than a Wi-Fi connection, consumers might be tempted to stay on 4G - and the telcos would have won the fight.

Of course, this would work only if the local networks are robust and reliable enough to lure users.

Going by our LTE network test this week (see here), along with the telcos' track record of maintaining their current 3G networks, some work still needs to be done.

The good news is this gives us enough time to change our mobile data habits.




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