Back in 2016, there were three major Singapore operators— Singtel, StarHub and M1. The cheapest SIM-only plan with 3GB of data cost $20 from Singtel, whilst users on M1’s network had to pay $125 for 13GB.
In 2016 the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Circles Life entered into the market. Since then, more MVNOs have flooded the scene. MVNOs do not own or operate any network infrastructure and have to lease it from Singtel, M1 or StarHub at a cost. For example MyRepublic and VivoBee use StarHub’s network, while Zero Mobile and Zero 1 are hosted on Singtel. Circles.Life, the first MVNO in Singapore, has a partnership with M1.
Fast forward to 2019, and prices have fallen. That same $20 will buy you 20GB of data on Singtel’s network, with similar deals available from the other operators. However, operating a wireless network hasn’t suddenly got cheaper; in fact, with the deployment of LTE-Advanced technology and new spectrum requiring more equipment and cell sites, capital expenditure has been up for Singtel and M1 since 2015.
This decreasing price pressure has been led by this emergence of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), which buy wholesale capacity from the network operators and resell the service to consumers. Through aggressive price points and novel rate plans, MVNOs have been able to target particular niches, and have carved out a small but significant market share – the biggest, Circles.Life, claims a three to five percent market share.