The chart below gives a breakdown of users who updated the app SG Buses in the 10 days before September 14. According to this chart, 54,170 SingTel users upgraded their copy of SG Buses to the latest version. In comparison, 32,090 StarHub users upgraded while the corresponding number for M1 users was 25,090.
SG Buses downloads
Source: Muh Hon Cheng
This suggests that SingTel has 1.7 times as many iPhone users as StarHub and a staggering 2.2 times as many users as M1.
The chart for people who upgraded SG NextBus shows a similar pattern. A total of 52,720 SingTel users upgraded, compared to 36,440 StarHub users and 32,710 M1 users. Based on SG NextBus, SingTel has more than 1.4 times as many iPhone users as StarHub and 1.6 times as many users as M1.
SG NextBus downloads
Source: Muh Hon Cheng
These numbers are for two extremely popular local iPhone apps, and it should be representative of the local iPhone population.
Looking at the data, it show that while the precise percentage differs but the trend is clear: SingTel has many more users than its competitors.
On one hand, this no doubt a good thing for SingTel, which gets to enjoy the steady stream of revenue from iPhone users on its network.
Unfortunately, iPhone users are notorious data hogs and the sheer number of users must put SingTel’s network under a tremendous strain. I’m no telecoms engineer but I’m guessing that an overloaded network will cause a poorer network experience. As someone who has been with SingTel since it started selling the iPhone two years ago, I can say that the network has deteriorated over time. I get many more dropped calls now and functionality has been affected as well. You used to be able to tether your iPhone and conduct a phone conversation at the same time. Not any more.
These numbers also suggest that switching to M1 might be the way to go simply because there are fewer iPhone users on the M1 network now compared to SingTel and even StarHub. That means less competition for capacity and hopefully a better network experience. (This is, of course, assumes that all three carriers have a roughly equivalent network to begin with.)
The Singapore government is selling off more wireless spectrum and all three local carriers are said to be interested in bidding for it. If SingTel wants to hang on to its iPhone customers, it needs to upgrade its capacity or it will start to see a migration of iPhone users towards networks that actually deliver.
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