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Mobile data. Clever ways to cut costs in Singapore.

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Just take a look around - whether it’s on public transport, in restaurants or merely walking around in the street - it’s clear that Singaporeans are very attached to their mobile phones. A survey conducted in 2017 by Circles.Life reinforces this impression as half of all respondents admitted to being unable to go without data access for more than a day. Fifty per cent of those surveyed also confirmed they regularly exceed their data quota - in almost a quarter of cases by as much as 3GB.

So just how much data do Singaporeans really use given its apparently indispensable place in our lives; how does this compare with regional averages and, if you can't live without it, what can you do to at least minimise your data costs?

Surprisingly, a study by consumer researchers Value Penguin, shows that data consumption per capita is lower in Singapore than amongst our Asian neighbours in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. At 2.8GB per month (derived from government statistics of 15.8 Petabytes for a 5.6 million population in the fourth quarter of 2017) this is significantly lower than in Korea (3.5GB/month) and in Taiwan where consumers use a whopping 7.4GB/month.

mobile data plan

But do these lower consumption rates in Singapore translate into lower costs?

With an average cost of S$4.4 per 1GB (as part of a basic 5GB plan) as shown in the above table, Singaporeans do in fact enjoy a considerable price advantage over consumers in Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong and Japan. Data plans in these countries are significantly more expensive, ranging from S$8-11 per 1 GB. Perhaps the lower rate of growth in data consumption in Singapore might in part explain the reluctance of providers here to hike prices.

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How to minimise your data costs further?

Even if Singapore mobile data rates are competitive regionally it is still possible to keep a lid on data costs with the following tips:

- Always use Wi-Fi wherever possible to ensure you don’t use mobile data unnecessarily.

  • Use your phone’s data usage tracker or the app provided by your carrier to monitor your data consumption.
  • Remember that apps like Google Maps, YouTube, Facebook and some dating apps always run in the background and consume a lot of data unless shut off. Location-based apps especially are data-usage intensive, and eat into your device’s battery life too.
  • Disable automated updates for apps while on a cellular network
  • Disable features that allow videos to download automatically - on Facebook for instance.
  • Consider downloading versions of maps instead of using live versions, and remember to download TV shows etc while on a WiFi network.
  • Investigate using apps such as “Onavo Extend” which help to compress data.

Choosing the Right Plan

After having decreased your mobile data consumption using the above tips then the best way to manage data costs is to be savvy about the type of plan you select, making sure it is best suited to your needs. Perhaps resist the temptation of “free” phone plans that often come with expensive monthly data bundles surplus to your requirements. Similarly picking high-usage data plans can be pricey - a 12GB plan can costs as much as S$239.9 per month - consider carefully if you really need that much data.

Other good ways to manage costs are to consider the benefits of family, corporate or student plans that can be cheaper than individual ones. Singtel’s youth combo plan is a good case in point - it allows for free upgrades, unlimited SMS/MMS messages and campus/camp calls. Singtel’s corporate plan provides a free SIM, registration fees are waived and discounts of up to S$200 on phone handsets.

Ultimately, it’s good news that mobile data costs in Singapore are extremely competitive, however you can also play a part by staying informed and using your data and devices in the most cost-effective way.

Look out for more money-saving tips.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, remember it’s vital to have good car, motorcycle and travel cover. 
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