Ericsson on Monday conducted a media briefing in Singapore during which executives touched on various aspects of the 4G/LTE commercial networks. With a mobile penetration that exceeds 150 percent and a number one worldwide ranking in smartphone ownership of 74 percent, the rollout of LTE networks in Singapore is one that is followed with interest. (The smartphone ownership data is from an Ericsson ConsumerLab Mobile Lifestyle 2012 study.)
Ericsson executives talked about how LTE networks can be used to drive innovation, serve as a differentiator, and improve customer experience. According to Arun Bhikshesvaran (pictured at right), chief marketing officer at Ericsson, the Asia Pacific currently makes up 40 personal of global LTE subscriptions with very strong 1800MHz adoption and ecosystem. This is unlike LTE in North America, which is using the 700/800 and 1700/1900MHz frequency bands for LTE.
Bhikshesvaran also urged operators to be flexible in staggering their pricing plans, pointing to AT&T's Mobile Share plans as an example of out-of-the-box thinking. Kursten Leins, who is the general manager of strategic and tactical marketing at Ericsson, addressed the topic of mobile subscribers churn. Observing that more users are switching carriers without warning, Leins noted that "Key drivers for churn are pricing, network quality issues, and billing, as well as charging issues."
During the Q&A session, company representatives said they expect local carriers to continue supporting existing 3G networks in parallel with newer 4G networks to support non-LTE devices.
The briefing preceded an announcement by Singapore's largest carrier, SingTel, of a partnership with Ericsson to roll out its LTE network in Singapore. With its commercial LTE services launched in June 2012, SingTel is extending its LTE deployment on 1.8GHz and 2.6GHz, with 80 percent coverage expected by the end of 2012 and full island coverage by early 2013.
Ericsson will also upgrade its existing 3G network to offer 42Mbps peak speeds using dual carrier technology (DC-HSPA). In order to offer greater differentiation, Yuen Kuan Moon, SingTel's CEO Consumer Singapore, said that this faster top speed of 42Mbps will only be available to its 4G customers as a fallback connectivity option.
Of note, Rival carrier M1 has already launched its nationwide 4G data network in Singapore, and StarHub has said it will roll out 4G services in the central business district and Changi Airport later this year.
Implications on BYOD
Unlike in North America, mobile devices purchased in the region are typically "unlocked." This means that users can switch between providers with ease, the limiting factor being the contracted minimum service period for those who purchase their smartphones at subsidized rates. Users who switch to a new carrier immediately upon or even before the expiration of their old service contracts may explain the churn in mobile subscription observed by Ericsson.
With possible changes in price plans offered by carriers under LTE and the fickle carrier loyalty in mind, businesses that embrace BYOD may want to adopt more flexible methods of supporting mobile devices. Instead of signing up for mobile plans under the company, for example, they may want to directly subsidize employees identified as mobile workers with a monthly cash payout.
Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.