Just after Singtel announced that they will be raising the rates and fees for their fixed home line service, Starhub announced that they will be providing free fixed line for their customers – hardware all thrown in for free!

Indeed, it does seem that Starhub has had the upper hand in this situation; what potential switchovers have to bear in mind is that Starhub runs on VoIP while Singtel runs over physical copper connections that are physically switched. However, given the advancement of VoIP, one can hardly tell the difference nowadays besides that suspicious occasional lag.

This will also mean that in times of blackout, Starhub fixed line users will not be able to access their phone services while Singtel users would largely be able to. Largely – because there will be some who choose to use fanciful phones that will require a power supply.

Given the current economic status (editor: which spelt “recession” on 10th October 2008), it is confounding on as to why government-privatised-companies such as Singtel and, just recently, Singapore Powers, have chosen this time to raise their rates. Given as they promise to provide “vouchers” to help the needy tide over this time of roughness, we can only hope that they don’t “run out of vouchers” just like the transport companies did earlier.

Singtel had attributed the increase to how it hasn’t raised rates and fees in the last 18 years and that copper is becoming more expensive, while Singapore Powers attributed it to “the peg to fuel prices”.

Nonetheless, if you are interested to take up the Starhub free fixed line offer, you may go to http://www.starhub.com/freehomeline

SingTel fixed-line rates to go up

Annual fee will also be raised; telco cites rising costs, offers vouchers for needy households

SINGTEL is hiking its fixed-line phone rates and annual subscription fee starting on Jan 1 next year – the first increase in 18 years.

All businesses and more than 90 per cent of households would be affected by the rises, said SingTel’s Singapore chief executive Allen Lew.

A total of 60 per cent of residential customers, and 75 per cent of business owners will face rises of not more than $1.50 a month or $18 a year, Mr Lew said. The rest would face somewhat higher rises.

The annual subscription rate will rise 10 per cent from $100 to $110 for home users and about 7 per cent from $150 to $160 for business users.

Call charges will rise 14 per cent by 0.1 cents to 0.8 cents for every 30-second block during peak hours and for every 60-second block during off-peak hours.

Peak hours will also be pushed back an hour to between 9am and 7pm from the current 8am to 6pm period, Monday through Friday, to reflect changes in call traffic patterns.

While the price increase may be relatively modest for most home consumers, the story may be different for some businesses.

Mr V. S. Kumar, managing director of Network Courier, said that communication with his customers by phone is a major part of his business. He has 24 phone lines and receives about 3,500 phone calls a day.

‘I am surprised at the timing of this announcement because we are entering a downturn and the costs of doing business have been rising,’ he said. ‘This is not very encouraging news.’

Bus and train fares were increased by 0.7 per cent at the beginning of this month. Just last week the Energy Market Authority announced that electricity tariffs would go up 21 per cent.

To help offset the higher charges, SingTel will provide $1 million worth of credit vouchers, each worth $10, to help households which are in need of financial assistance.

People in need of this assistance should approach their Citizens Consultative Committees or People’s Association grassroots leaders.

Home users who sign up for SingTel’s electronic bill statement and Giro before March 31 next year will also get a one-time discount of $10 from their annual subscription, SingTel said.

In response to reporters’ questions, Mr Lew said SingTel’s operations were beginning to feel the strain from the global financial crisis and that cost-cutting measures at the company are on the agenda.

‘It is no longer business as usual,’ he said. ‘We are starting to see the impact on sentiment in some parts of the business.

‘We are adopting a framework that is customised for what we see as another 12 to 18 months of uncertainty and a difficult economic environment.’

SingTel is starting to curtail costs such as discretionary costs and advertising costs.

Said Mr Lew: ‘Until revenue goes back to the old days we will definitely have to cut back.’

He said the telecommunications firm would provide more details of the impact of the global financial crisis on its operations when it releases its half-year financial results next month.

In the meantime SingTel does not expect to cut any jobs as yet, but will focus on ‘holding with the current manpower that we have’. Any staff members who resign will not be replaced, he said.

On the fixed-line rate increases, he explained that the rising cost of labour as well as copper, which is the medium through which voices are transmitted over phone lines, made the revision something ‘that we couldn’t hold off on’.

The annual average wage rose 52 per cent between 1997 and last year, according to the Ministry of Manpower. The price of copper has trebled from 1991 to last year. The copper lines are replaced every 15 to 25 years based on wear and tear, Mr Lew said.

He acknowledged that revenue from the traditional home fixed-lines is falling as more people are choosing to use mobile phones and broadband Internet connections rather than dial-up.

However, he said that the fixed-line phone is still a unique product because it does not run on power, thereby offering a reliability that other alternatives cannot. He also noted that the new rates are still among the lowest in the region.

The rate adjustment was necessary to reflect product value and to ensure the long-term sustainability of the product, Mr Lew added.

He said SingTel had considered the possibility that some subscribers would defect to other telecom companies. The company would be working to ‘convince customers of the value of this product’.

A Straits Times straw poll of 10 people found that eight of them felt they would be unaffected by the changes as they use cellphones or no longer have fixed lines.

Ms Penny Koo, 25, a lawyer, said that she felt the fee increase was not too large, and so it will not affect her usage. She said that while it may not hurt most middle-income households, some lower-income consumers may still feel the pinch.

However, Ms Pauline Tan, a civil engineer in a household of four, said that because she seldom uses her fixed-line phone, she may consider cutting the line in view of the increases.

Others The Straits Times talked to said they had already given up home fixed lines.

Mrs Josephine Tan, 57, a retired mother of one, said that when she moved into her new apartment five years ago she had decided to forego having a fixed-line phone as she saw no use for it.


Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_286830.html

And for your free Starhub fixed line:

StarHub extends free fixed line phone service to more customers

A day after SingTel announced rate increases for its fixed line phone services, its rival StarHub says it’s offering its residential voice service for free, to its cable tv customers.

StarHub’s fixed-line service is called Digital Voice Home, and is already offered free to its broadband internet subscribers.

The telco is extending it to its cable TV subscribers with immediate effect.

StarHub said in a statement that customers who switch from their current residential fixed-line telephone service, will enjoy savings of more than 100 dollars a year.

That’s because StarHub’s fixed line service comes with free unlimited outgoing calls to any local telephone number at any time of the day.

Source: 938 Live, http://938live.sg/portal/site/938Live/menuitem.43735da1634c4377d21b2910618000a0/?vgnextoid=7dfa15b9bf6dc110VgnVCM1000001f0aa8c0RCRD&vgnextchannel=6f33638896593110VgnVCM100000e101000aRCRD&mcParam=6f33638896593110VgnVCM100000e101000aRCRD

Article extracted on 8th October 2008

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