TPG Telecom started off as Total Peripherals Group in 1986, but was later renamed following a reverse takeover by TPG of SP Telemedia in 2008.
The Australian firm placed a winning bid of S$105 million in 2016, successfully naming it Singapore’s fourth telco.
It loosened the telco market for the first time in 15 years, which was previously dominated by the ‘big three’ — Singtel, StarHub and M1.
The three incumbents have long been struggling with disruption, and the growing presence of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) has made the telco industry grow even more competitive.
TPG would be hard-pressed to gain a foothold in Singapore if its selling point is to offer low-priced plans.
While Singaporeans are data-hungry, they are not willing to pay more for extra data. The entry of MVNOs has given them the luxury of various offerings at competitive prices, and telcos have also succumbed by rolling out sub-brands (Singtel’s Gomo and StarHub’s Giga).
M1 was the last one to react as it consolidates its plans into a single OnePlan — but as the saying goes, better late than never.
Has Almost 300,000 Subscribers Now
The telco industry is driven by innovation and competition, so speed-to-market and agility are key.
TPG made a huge splash in Singapore with its enticing offer of a FREE one-year mobile trial service.
It’s a SIM-only plan that includes unlimited data and unlimited mobile-to-mobile calls. The catch is that the calls require a voice over LTE (VoLTE)-capable phone, such as a Huawei P20 and Mate 20, as well as Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+.
Although iPhones are not yet included in the official list of VoLTE-supported devices, TPG customers with iPhone 7 or later models are also able to make and receive voice calls.
According to TPG Telecom general manager Richard Tan, close to 300,000 Singaporeans have subscribed to TPG so far.
Thanks to the overwhelming demand from Singaporeans, TPG has expanded its service to offer free unlimited data roaming to popular neighbouring destinations Malaysia and Indonesia.
Its research reveals that Singaporeans travel often to these two countries, and as such, Tan believes it’s necessary for telcos to curate their service offerings to suit the needs and behaviours of their users.
He also revealed that TPG will be adding new roaming destinations such as India in the upcoming months.
In July, TPG announced that it has collaborated with Mediacorp to offer value-added services with access to radio and video streaming content.
It now offers zero-rated streaming on MeRadio and Toggle app, which means that TPG subscribers are able to stream Toggle’s videos and MeRadio’s radio stations without tapping on their data.
With these services in place, TPG has quickly acquired a solid customer base in a competitive landscape. However, the challenge now is to retain these customers once the free one-year trial ends.
So how are they going to compete with their rival telcos and the ever-increasing MVNOs?
Eyes On The Elderly
As the fourth entrant to Singapore’s telco market, Tan said the firm differentiates itself from existing telcos with its core operating principle “simplicity” by offering only one basic mobile plan.
As part of its commitment, TPG is targeting senior citizens — specifically those aged 65 and above — when it launches in Singapore.
Its mobile plan will include a SIM card, 3GB data and unlimited calls to local numbers. This will be made free to seniors for the first 24 months.
Tan feels that the market segment for seniors is “underserved” and TPG wants to bridge this gap and help seniors cross the digital divide at a reasonable cost.
“As part of the government’s Smart Nation initiative, we want to make sure that the elderly in Singapore are carried alongside Singapore’s drive to transform into a leading economy powered by digital innovation,” said Tan.
“We also wish to encourage the elderly to get more out of their mobile by surfing the Web, using apps like WhatsApp and WeChat, and leverage mobile payments.”
TPG has also partnered with an undisclosed phone manufacturer to build “senior-friendly” phones.
It will have a call button on the side that, when pushed, will cycle through a pre-configured set of numbers to reach the user’s loved ones. This would be a very accessible initiative for those who may have dementia or need help navigating devices in a simpler way.– Richard Tan, general manager, TPG Telecom
The touchscreen phone will not run on either iOS or Android, and will instead be equipped with an operating system that is “popular in India and the United States,” Tan told CNA in a separate interview.
To Launch In S’pore This Year
A study released in July revealed that TPG’s download speeds and network coverage is lagging behind rivals Singtel, StarHub and M1.
Tan explained that TPG is still in its trial phase and has not enabled all network features or completed overall network optimisation.
One of our key challenges we face is expanding our coverage in underground MRT tunnels. More than half of Singapore’s population take MRT daily, so it’s very important for us to have good coverage in tunnels.
Work is currently underway and coverage is being enabled on a tunnel-by-tunnel basis progressively. (We are) focusing on optimising our network to ensure customers get the best experience when TPG launches its services commercially.– Richard Tan, general manager, TPG Telecom
There is no tentative launch dates set as of yet, but TPG previously shared that it will be commercially launching its mobile services “later this year“.
Ahead of the launch, TPG is currently working on a digital wallet, which allows users to pre-pay and top up ahead of time, and draw on the stored amount for things like calls and SMSes.
The top-ups can be done via our online portal, and thereby dispose of the need to have a dedicated app. The stored value wallet will also ensure customers will not receive bill shocks as they will not be charged more than what they have added into the stored value wallet.– Richard Tan, general manager, TPG Telecom
At the end of the day, Tan said that TPG is focused on selling a good experience to customers, which will naturally help create brand loyalty in the long run.
“I always say one thing: Customers are very smart. Customers will know who is serving them best and who is giving them the best value,” Tan told CNA.
Featured Image Credit: AFP / WitthayaP via Shutterstock