Nov 5, 2012

Posted by in Tech | 0 Comments

Choosing Between LTE or Non-LTE Phones in Singapore

In late 2011, SingTel was the first to launch commercial LTE in Singapore. During the launch, there was only a single price plan available and it was called Broadband on Mobile Prestige 75. Due to a lack of LTE-enabled phone at the time, the plan could only be used on devices connected to LTE dongle.

LTE Logo

Fast forward 10 months later, all the three Singapore telcos have begun rolling out their LTE networks or in laymen terms, it is simply referred to as 4G. One-by-one, SingTel, Starhub and M1 started to unveil their 4G networks. The unveiling of iPhone 5 injected what is probably the biggest boost to all the hypes surrounding LTE. Prior to the official announcement of iPhone 5, some of the major smartphone makers had released LTE-enabled phones such as Samsung’s Galaxy SIII and HTC’s One XL. If it were not due to Apple’s decision to include LTE feature in iPhone 5, I think the roll-out of 4G networks in Singapore (and many parts of the world) would not have been so rapid.

RELATED: LG Nexus 4: Why no LTE?

Compared to last year where mobile subscribers in Singapore had to subscribe to a plan dedicated to SingTel’s 4G services, this time the 4G offering has been included as part of the standard mobile phone plans. This sounds more logical because as more LTE-capable phones are made available, it would be too confusing if each consumer has to add additional charges to their plan for using LTE services.

The biggest touted benefits of an LTE network is the superior data speed that we can enjoy even while on the go. However, determining the maximum throughput of a 4G network is a little tricky. Part of the reason is because the technology itself has not reached maturity and the LTE networks that have been deployed worldwide exist in multiple variations.

With all the frenzy surrounding LTE, the question that leaves many of us asking when the contract expires and we plan to upgrade our handset is, should I or should I not get an LTE-enabled phone?

In my opinion, while the question sounds complex, the answer turns out to be quite simple actually. At this point of time, LTE networks are still not matured and it will take at least 1 to 2 year before issues related to technical and business terms are ironed out. Simply turn to any of your friend who is using a 4G-enabled phone (look for those who have just upgraded to iPhone 5) and listen to what they have to say about the quality of the 4G networks here in Singapore. I can assure you that you will not get to hear many positive stories. If you have time to listen to the issues that they are facing, be prepared to spare at least half-an-hour to listen to their grumblings and complaints. It is really that bad. This is not yet considering overseas roaming experience. If you bought an LTE phone today, you need to check the frequency that is supports. Different countries allocate different frequencies for their LTE networks. There is a high chance that you will still not be able to enjoy the LTE networks offered in other countries with the LTE phone you bought in Singapore.

As we all know, Google has been a technology driver for many years now. From its Page Rank algorithm in determining most relevant search results to its Google Map application. What they have decided to do with Nexus 4 phone took many by surprise. Of all features, Google decided to exclude LTE into its upcoming Nexus 4 phone. Many factors could influence their decision, which I consider to be bold. But to me, if a well-respected technology leader such as Google decide to remain on the sideline for now, I think it gives a pretty clear guidance to us.

My recommendation is unless you are the type who upgrades your phone every 3-4 years or more, or you think your love with your new phone will remain for more than 2 years, then you should sit this one out and opt out of the LTE race at least until the technology matures and settles a bit more.

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