If you are re-contracting your phone plans in recent months, you would have observed that your data bundle have gotten real attractive.
This is probably the result of intense competition due to entry of a 4th telecom operator TPG. Before, they start offering their paid package, and as they are testing out the quality of their network, the incumbents are starting an intense price war.
Not just that, the mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) such as Circles Life, Zero, MyRepublic and Zero1 are also offering some really competitive packages.
As a consumer, this is a good thing because these corporate tyrants are finally kowtowing to you at the expense of their margins.
What I do find refreshing is that the MVNO operators are catering to selected usage segments that the incumbents do not wish to address. I could get a S$9/month Zero1 plan for my dad who do not use his phone so much since most of the time he is at home.
The illustration above was taken from a Telecom operator stock review. It shows the kind of upgrades that you could get if you re-contract to a sim-only plan. DBS is forecasting that perhaps only 6% of the Singapore customer base would switch over to sim-only plans.
From the upgrades on offer, the price have been kept within range. What got bumped up was the amount of data. If you are on an entry plan, you get bumped up 10 GB. Starhub even bumped up from a 10 to 16GB range to 40GB.
I find that having more data, for the same price is kind of great.
However, I do wonder what they are trying to do is to encourage us to make full use of that increase in data.
There are 2 train of thought:
- It is not sustainable to provide “so much data” technically
- Technically, their throughput now is so much that, they are just constraining us in the past ( or a mixture of better back-haul infrastructure that accommodate greater usage)
If it is #2 then this greater amount of data is here to stay.
However, if it is #1, then this might not be a good thing for consumers.
Unless you practice some restrained, many might just find that they need to use as much of this data available as possible. So you venture and carry out more of the experience that you cannot do in the past. You used to put video streaming on mobile off, now you allow them to be on for your Instagram, Facebook and other social platforms.
Over time, your current usage becomes a habit, that you cannot do without.
Would there come a time where the telecom competition equilibrium is reached again and all the telecom stop providing free data incentives, and make you pay for it?
Would you be able to scale down your usage immediately?
Personally I think the network should be able to accommodate more data usage than in the past, so they are giving us more, of what they tried to constrain and make us pay a premium in the past. In the event that competition stabilized, it will be tough for one or two (probably Singtel) to make you pay for the data. Some of the MVNO will just entice you with more data. I think overall it is whether technically and economically, they can continue to do something like that.
This article might sound like a Telecom analysis, but what I would like to warn is more on the personal finance side.
For some people, when there is a tendency for things to be offered for free, they tend to change their behavior and over-consume it. This means that had there be a cost to it, you would not behave this way.
Basically, we do not practice some self discipline or be in tough with what we think is enough.
- If there is free food, or someone paid for it, you just eat more than your usual capacity. The negative consequences is that if you do it often, this will likely lead to health problems
- You cannot afford private hospital care most of the time. However, because the insurance premium is priced cheaply, and the insurance covers a private hospital care from the first dollar on-wards, you decide to go seek treatment there, even for some of the smallest thing. We are part of the problem in this escalating health insurance premium fall out
- In the past, you tend to only spend your free time shopping and surfing text based information. With this increase in data, you fall down this spiral of distraction by indulging in things you would not do in the past
Do we then blame the telecom for seducing us with such temptations?
I think it is imperative to use things within your means. And be in control of yourself. More indulgence in entertainment and convenience is OK but don’t become a slave to it.
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