Mobile experience drives network switching in Singapore

Photo by Patrick Tomasso

Mobile service users in Singapore who changed their operator on average had a worse experience before they switched compared to the typical experience on their original network, according to analysis made by Opensignal.

“Our data shows that Singapore’s fourth mobile operator — TPG — as well as the numerous mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) which have launched operations in recent years, have been chipping away at M1, Singtel and Starhub’s subscriber bases,” said Francesco Rizzato, principal technical analyst at Opensignal.

Circles.Life, redOne and VIVIFI are among popular MVNOs in Singapore, where churn is important for mobile operators because the market is no longer growing. To acquire new customers they must persuade users to leave their existing operator. 

Rizzato noted that the total number of mobile subscriptions in Singapore had been steady for years until December 2018, when TPG launched its free-trial plan. 

This drove a temporary surge in the number of mobile connections as many users started using a free TPG SIM in addition to their existing one. But starting in April 2020, the Infocomm Media Development Authority saw a drastic drop in the number of total mobile subscriptions.

This was likely due to many TPG users ditching their free TPG SIMs once the operator launched its commercial plans on March 31, 2020. IMDA has also since reported a significant increase in the total number of ported subscriptions, which refers to the number of subscribers who retained their mobile numbers when they switched to a new mobile operator.

Opensignal analyzed smartphone users in Singapore who changed their mobile network service provider — ‘“leavers” — from January 2019 to December 2020.

“Our data shows that M1, Singtel and StarHub have all been losing smartphone users to TPG and the numerous MVNOs in the last two years,” said Rizzato.

“Of the three incumbent mobile operators, it was Singtel that bore the brunt of the losses according to our data, while M1 and StarHub’s net flow of leavers apparently stabilised after going into the negative during the first part of 2019,” he added.

Opensignal found that leavers on average had a worse mobile experience before they switched than the typical experience observed by our users on their original network provider. 

Leavers across all four national MNOs on average spent between 47% and 133% more time without a mobile signal compared to the average scores on their networks. They also spent less time connected to either a 3G or 4G mobile connection — 3G/4G Availability — and they experienced lower 4G Availability. 

“Our data therefore suggests that users experiencing mobile network pain points are more likely to change their mobile service provider,” said Rizzato.