S'pore to get commercial HSDPA

Mobile operator MobileOne unveils plans to roll out the first commercial HSDPA mobile service in Singapore.

SINGAPORE--Mobile operator MobileOne (M1) today announced plans to roll out the first commercial high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) mobile service in the island-state.

Dubbed 3.5G or Super 3G, the high-speed mobile broadband technology will provide continuous wireless connection throughout Singapore, said M1 CEO Neil Montefiore.

The operator's mobile broadband service, branded M1 Broadband, will be available from Dec. 6 this year to both consumers and enterprise customers, in three unlimited data usage plans priced at S$22 (US$14.17), S$38 (US$24.48) and S$68 (US$43.80) for download speeds of up to 384Kbps, 1.8Mbps and 3.6Mbps, respectively.

Subscribers can expect initial data access speeds of up to 3.6Mbps (mega bits per second) within the central business district (CBD), and up to 1.8Mbps for the rest of the island-state, Montefiore said.

According to M1 CTO Patrick Scodeller, data access speeds will be increased to 14.4Mbps by the end of next year--starting from the CBD area. Extending the provision of these higher connection speeds to the rest of the country will be largely driven by user demand, he said.

M1's mobile broadband service will cover most of Singapore, but customers who wish to use the HSDPA service in the country's underground MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) stations will have to wait until the end of 2007, Scodeller said. Access across the underground public transport network will be available after the completion of a joint upgrading project by the country's three mobile operators including StarHub Mobile and SingTel Mobile, he said.

Subscribers can also use M1's upcoming HSDPA service in 14 countries worldwide, including Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, said Chua Swee Kiat, M1's general manager of corporate communications.

Aside from the local subscription fee, Chua said, overseas roaming charges--imposed by overseas network operators--will apply. He added that these charges would be similar to 3G charges stipulated by the foreign operators.

To use the HSDPA service, M1 users will need HSDPA-enabled equipment, such as Vodafone's USB 2.0 Mobile Connect Modem for desktop PCs and notebooks, Mobile Connect Card for notebooks and 3G Router for establishing a shared Wi-Fi Internet connection.

In addition, HSDPA-enabled mobile phones such as the Nokia N95, can also be used to access the high-speed mobile broadband service, according to Scodeller.

Customers who wish to use the service, but do not want to purchase additional devices, can also choose to loan HSDPA-enabled modems--at no additional charge--from M1, during the subscription period.

SingTel hops on HSDPA, too
Singapore's largest telco SingTel yesterday also announced the launch of its HSDPA commercial trial service, with initial coverage along Singapore Orchard Road shopping belt, stretching from Dhoby Ghaut MRT area to Orchard MRT area. Island-wide HSDPA coverage is expected to be ready before the end of 2007, according to the company.

Dubbed Broadband on Mobile, the trial service will be provided at no charge to SingTel customers until the end of February 2007. Customers can register online for the commercial trial from Nov. 30.

Meanwhile, the country's third mobile operator StarHub told ZDNet Asia that "HSDPA is on the natural evolutionary path of 3G", and "[HSDPA] is in our plans for commercial deployment in 2007".

Mike Reynolds, StarHub's head of integrated products and marketing, said: "Like other mobile operators here, and around the world, we're in the process of conducting technical trials.

"HSDPA is essentially a software upgrade to the existing 3G network and can be deployed very fast over four to six months," he said. "But, as with most new mobile access technologies, it is the availability, price, features and performance of handsets that are the gating factors for customer demand."