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Singapore’s 4th Telco Isn’t That Worth It, And Here’s Why

May 19, 2016

With the launch of Singapore’s 4th telco, Circle, the island is abuzz with discussion about which telco offers the best bang for your buck. Curious about Circle’s new flexible pricing, we visited their website, the prices seemed extremely attractive on paper, which drew us in, but there were quite a few points missing from Circle’s site. After clarifying these points with the Circle team. We have come to a single conclusion, the 4th Telco’s (Circle) plans aren’t quite worth it, unless you’re a heavy data user, who needs a lot of flexibility.

Lets start with the good

  • Flexibility – Allows you to add or remove data, talk time and SMS/MMS when you need to, more flexible than any other telco (Leave a comment below to find out more)
  • Bonus 2Gb data during their early bird promotion period (Which may make it worthwhile to get during this period, without this, not so much)

But now onto the bad…

No Free Incoming Calls

Free incoming calls is a feature of almost any other phone plan you can find in Singapore, so many Singaporeans may naturally assume that Circle would offer it as part of their plans, guess what? It doesn’t. This makes a huge difference since many of us do not often call out of our mobile devices, but receive more calls from other people.

Just to illustrate, I have attached my personal phone usage below:[/vc_column_text]

As you can see my incoming calls surpass my outgoing calls by almost 75%, so the lack of free incoming calls is a huge deal breaker.

No Handset Subsidy

Singaporeans often are on the lookout for handset subsidies when they sign up for a new line or re-contract their existing one. Circle does not offer handset subsidies at the moment, though you can buy a phone on an instalment plan. Which leads us to our next point which is…

It’s not actually cheap for a SIM only plan

One problem with some comparisons that Singaporeans have made between telcos, Singtel vs Starhub vs M1 vs Circle, is that some of them have been comparing Circle’s plans – which are SIM only and does not come with a handset subsidy – against telco plans which incorporate handset subsidies. This is of course an unfair comparison, like comparing a rock with the rock (Dwayne Johnson).


Image of Dwayne Johnson, courtesy of Flickr User 22860

The truth of it is that M1’s mySIM+20 plan which is equal to Circle’s monthly base plan offers similar features, with an additional 50 minutes of talk time and 800 free SMS/MMS, is $8 cheaper ($20 vs $28).

I feel it’s important to point out now though that if you register under Circle’s Early Bird Promotion, you’ll get an additional 2Gb of data free in perpetuity and that Circle allows unlimited data usage on Whatsapp – though honestly, I don’t think the average Whatsapp user uses that much data, more on this below! No word on when it’ll end though, and note that M1’s mySIM+20 plan comes with free incoming calls which kind of balances the equation to me.

Do note, that if you want to add more data to your mobile plan, Circle does offer cheaper additional data at $6/gb compared to M1 at $8.56/Gb, however, this is still slightly more expensive than Singtel which allows you to add data at $5.35/Gb

Unlimited Whatsapp Usage Is Really Pointless

So one of Circle’s big selling points is that they have unlimited Whatsapp usage, but that really is pointless, why? Well, using myself as an example again: Last month, I used more than 9Gb of data on Youtube, almost 1.4Gb on 9Gag, about 1.3Gb of data surfing the internet, with 619Mb on Spotify and 264Mb on Facebook, now compare that against Whatsapp where I used only 55.26Mb and understand why I’m suitably underwhelmed by this offer.

I’m probably not the most typical of users, but some cursory research revealed that the average mobile data usage for Whatsapp is 0.79Mb/day which works out to 23.7Mb/month or based on Circle’s $6/Gb charge is worth well, about 14 cents. Based on my own usage, that comes out to about 33 cents.

Having a 4th telco enter the market certainly will spur competition in the long term but honestly, as it stands, Circle’s plans certainly aren’t the most competitive on the market – Unless you’re an extremely heavy Whatsapp user who doesn’t receive a lot of calls. Though I must admit the free 2Gb of data for Early Bird sign-ups is a good draw for data heavy users and in terms of providing additional data, $6/Gb is cheaper than anyone else short of Singtel.


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Gerry has spent time working in 5 different banks in various capacities, across a range of functions from back to middle and front office. After leaving banking, he spent time working on market research for consumer banking with a focus on the Chinese and Singapore market. He now serves as a home loan consultant and business manager of Easyrates.

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