The battle for mobile experience superiority is a four-horse race where the winner does not take it all …

The country in question is of course Singapore, where more than 90% of residents use smartphones and smart devices.

While the island’s three main telcos (Singtel, Starhub and M1) have been focused on the 5G race, a market study has found that new entrant TPG Mobile is making great headway in closing the gap for its mobile experience.

Report data has seen TPG level up with M1 in the area of ‘video experience’ and making significant improvements in download speed and ‘voice app’ experience.

Only five months ago, the June report by mobile analytics firm Opensignal had found that TPG needed a great deal of catching up to do in many areas of the mobile experience, where it placed last for all except one of the metrics when compared to the three key telcos.

The king loses its crown

While the Australian telco may have failed to obtain mid-band spectrum from the IMDA’s 5G Call for Proposal, TPG will be able to deploy 5G using 800 MHz of mmWave spectrum.

Although mmWave on its own is difficult to deploy across large areas cost-effectively due to its propagation characteristics, the limited geography still gives the technology its best chances to flex its muscles.

In addition, an operator’s need for spectrum is heavily influenced by the size of its customer base. If TPG has fewer users than its competitors (which is a given since it is a new entrant), then it needs less spectrum to provide users with a good experience.

The report also noted that Singtel has lost its leadership position, with Starhub claiming the throne for ‘download speed’ experience. For upload speeds and voice app experience levels, Singtel tied with Starhub.

Here are the reported mobile experience trends in Singapore for the review period:

  • Average upload speeds: Singtel and M1 users observed declines of 0.7 Mbps (4.1%) and 1.1 Mbps (7.2%) in their average upload speeds, while their counterparts on TPG saw theirs rise by nearly the same amount—1 Mbps—but this increase was an impressive 20.5%.
  • Download speeds vs upload speeds: TPG has rapidly caught up with M1 and Singtel on download speeds. However, this has to be seen within the context that M1 and Singtel’s upload speeds are 2.3 and 2.6 times that of TPG’s, respectively.
  • Video streaming quality: While Singtel, Starhub and M1 users saw small declines in their ‘video experience’ levels since June, M1 users observed the largest drop in performance: a drop of 2.2 points (2.9%). However, M1, Singtel and StarHub all retained their ‘Excellent’ (75 or above) ratings for this measure of the mobile experience. TPG’s score rose by 5.2 points and this has put the telco on a level footing with its more-established rivals.
  • Down speed dominance: StarHub has become the sole winner for this category as users on its network saw their average overall download speeds increase by 4.5 Mbps (8.6%), while their Singtel counterparts observed a 2.2 Mbps (4.2%) drop in their download speeds.
  • Upload speed dominance: In June, Singtel won in the aspect outright, by a margin of around 1.3 Mbps. However, as the operator’s score has fallen by 0.7 Mbps while StarHub’s has risen by 0.5 Mbps, the two telcos are now joint winners for this category of the mobile experience. 

Finally, for ‘Voice App’ excellence: Singtel has lost its leadership since the last report. Both Singtel and M1’s scores have fallen by 0.9 points, while StarHub and TPG users have seen their voice app experience improve by 0.5 and 1.9 points, respectively.

This means that Singtel, StarHub and TPG are joint leaders for the category.