Last 2 – 3 years, we saw a few MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) appearing in Singapore. People like Circles.Life, Zero1 Mobile, Zero Mobile (Don’t know why these 2 the name almost the same.) are the more prominent ones. Most if not all of them are offering plans without contract, large or unlimited data packages, which definitely appeals to the media hungry users these days.
Out of curiosity, I decided to try out Zero1 Mobile. I took up the lowest $9.90 unlimited data plan with 1GB bundled and managed speed thereafter. What is managed speed? It means the provider will throttle down the speed of access after the first 1GB is exceeded. Zero1 does not state clearly the the minimum data rate they will throttle down to. So coming from a telco background, I’m really interested to how they will manage users that crosses the 1GB limit.
There are many strategies to throttle data rate and that of course affects the consumer experience. And the strategies Zero1 can adopt can be limited since they ride on the incumbent’s network infrastructure and policies, in this case Singtel.
So, now for my experience. Upon service activation, I made a deliberate effort to exhaust the 1GB data. That wasn’t too difficult. I finished up the 1GB in an hour or so by downloading music with my QQ Music app. After which the effect was felt. The ad in the speed test app couldn’t load.
The speed throttle was quite drastic – 0.3Mbps. I kind of expected this actually. I had friends who tried Zero1 during the early days and they said they were getting about 1Mbps at throttled speed. 1Mbps is actually pretty ok. You can still watch YouTube at 480p. WhatsApp would still work fine. At that point of time, there wasn’t much users, hence less contention. But once the contention sets in, I doubt they can maintain the 1Mbps.
I subsequently passed this line to my 9 year old as a daily phone. Her usage is WhatsApp, PUBG and Roblox, so the feedback from her is PUBG and Roblox doesn’t work. WhatsApp at times will get disconnected and takes a long time to reconnect. This is purely based on user experience, so I do not have numbers to show. But at the back of my mind, I can roughly picture the QoS (Quality of Service) metrics applied during the managed speed.
I suspect Zero1 could be implementing different QoS for different price plans. So the higher plans could indeed be still enjoying about 1Mbps at managed speed, which keeps their subscribers staying on with them.
What limits the MVNOs is the policies of the incumbents, which has traditionally put non infrastructure owning operators at great disadvantage since the days of ADSL. (20 years ago.). The MVNOs are actually at a very big risks, depending on the terms that they agreed upon with the infrastructure owners.
The $9.90 plan would have been an excellent student mobile plan if they could maintain a minimum QoS of 1Mbps managed speed, but I don’t think that would be commercially viable.
We actually switched to GIGA 2 days ago. It’s a $10 plan with 5GB bundled and rollover for unused data. And GIGA is by Starhub. When incumbents start to play this game, it is really going to be very challenging for the MVNOs
On a side note, I was actually ok with the throttle, because I wanted my daughter learn to manage her usage so that she doesn’t cross the 1G limit. But it’s a bummer when WhatsApp is frequently disconnected.