Singtel upgrading 4G network to hit 337Mbps in Singapore

Singapore's largest telco has switched on its 4G+ network, announcing plans to roll it out to shopping malls, new residential areas, and train tunnels.

Singtel has said it is the first telco in Southeast Asia to offer a tri-band 4G network using LTE-900, with the upgrade promising to provide customers who own compatible mobile devices with improved 4G coverage, most notably underground and in indoor areas.

"Demand for data is growing exponentially, and we are always looking for ways to improve the mobile experience for our customers. Our goal is to deliver the most reliable and seamless connectivity," Singtel's VP of mobile marketing Diana Chen said at the launch on Tuesday.

"We have invested heavily over the past year to improve the quality and extent of coverage, particularly indoor coverage. We have also enhanced zones that have been in need of a signal boost."

The 4G+ network is being progressively rolled out, starting at Parkway Parade and being followed by an additional eight shopping malls and new residential estates such as Sengkang and Punggol by October 2015. The extensive network upgrades, due for completion in March 2016, will cross 400 areas across the city, with the company adding that coverage will be available in the underground train system by November this year.

Singtel also mentioned its collaboration with Samsung to produce a tri-band 4G+ mobile device that would allow access to all three spectrum bands, enabling mobile speeds to max out at 337Mbps.

Singapore's largest telco has in addition revealed a partnership with McDonald's to outfit 123 fast-food restaurants with a Wi-Fi service by mid-2016. Unlimited access to the network is free for Singtel customers to access until November, and will be thereafter be capped at 2GB per customer per month.

Singtel announced an 11 percent rise in net profit to SG$970 million for the quarter ending December 31, 2014. However, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) fell 2.8 percent to S$1.23 billion due to higher costs of customer acquisition.

In April, the telco acquired a 98 percent equity interest in US managed cloud security services provider Trustwave. The acquisition cost Singtel an estimated $810 million.

Singapore's third-largest telco, M1, last week announced a SG$90 million profit for the first six months of 2015, an increase of 3.8 percent year on year, with service revenue of SG$408.6 million.

Singtel sought permission to be delisted from the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) in April, due to a significant decrease in its publicly traded securities in that country.

"After careful consideration, the Singtel board has determined that there are minimal shareholder benefits from maintaining Singtel's listing on the ASX. The delisting will also have the effect of reducing the costs arising from dual-listing requirements," the company said at the time.

Singtel largely operates in Australia under the Optus brand, which grew its mobile customer base by 42,000 in Q1 2015. Optus is likely to be overtaken in customer numbers, however, after iiNet shareholders approved TPG's AU$1.5 billion bid to take over merge the two on Monday.