StarHub joins rival telcos in mobile fee hike
STARHUB has followed SingTel and M1's lead by raising mobile subscription rates on the back of the launch of Apple's new iPhones on Friday.
But its hike is the sharpest - a $5 increase from its current $38 basic plan.
This matches SingTel's rate, which is at $42.90 a month, and consumers are not thrilled.
"A $5 increase is very steep," said advertising consulting director Benjamin Koe, 34, who has been waiting for the launch of the iPhone 6.
The increase piggybacks on the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, in anticipation of strong demand for the new handsets released worldwide last week.
StarHub and SingTel released prices for the Apple phones yesterday, with a basic iPhone 6 16GB costing $518 when purchased with any of the two telcos' basic $42.90 mobile plan.
M1 was the first to release prices last Friday, offering the basic iPhone 6 16GB handset at $525 under its i-Lite+ $41 monthly plan.
Analyst Ryan Huang at British-based brokerage IG said that the telcos "are riding on the launch of the world's most anticipated handset to roll out the price changes".
SingTel was the first to increase rates last month when it started charging users who renew their contracts $3 more for their monthly subscriptions.
M1 followed suit last Friday when it announced a $2 price increase for its packages amid its launch of the new iPhones.
Like SingTel, StarHub and M1 will also retire their current 3G plans which allow telcos to charge an add-on fee for high-speed 4G service.
In StarHub's case, the 4G service was a $2.14 per month add-on to a 3G plan. SingTel's and M1's 4G add-on services for 3G are still on promotion and free.
Customers of the telcos currently on 3G plans - such as those bundled with 12GB of mobile data - can continue with their plans if they roll them over and do not recontract or sign-up for new plans.
But the new plans for new and recontracting customers will come with more talk time, text messages and data allowances.
StarHub's senior vice-president of mobility, Chan Kin Hung, explained that it increased rates because it has been "investing heavily" in network upgrades.
For instance, the telco is boosting its 4G network speed to 300Mbps and allowing clearer 4G calls to be made.
The price hike is "long overdue", said analyst Kenneth Liew of market research firm IDC, as the telcos did not price 4G plans higher than 3G plans two years ago when they launched the former.
Consumers are resigned, citing the lack of real options.
"It is not like I can switch to another telco and get a huge discount; their plans are almost the same," said sales manager Faith Heng, 36, a SingTel subscriber.