SingTel, StarHub to double mobile broadband speeds by this year

SINGAPORE Telecom and StarHub aim to upgrade their cellular networks to double mobile data broadband speeds by the end of this year. This will allow users to surf the Web and download applications on their handphones at speeds of up to 42.2 Mbps (megabits per second) – twice as fast as the current 21.1 Mbps limit.

SingTel expects to complete its upgrade by the second half of this year, while StarHub said its network will be ready by the third quarter. Neither company has disclosed the cost of the upgrade.

When contacted, MobileOne said it will be ready for 42.2 Mbps by this quarter.

Although the speed boost can be achieved this year, SingTel’s executive vice-president for consumer business Yuan Kuan Moon said ‘it will take a while for devices to catch up’.

Most smart phones and mobile broadband dongles available today support download speeds of only 7.2Mbps to 14.4Mbps.

‘We are talking to all the major (handset) providers,’ Mr Yuan told reporters at a media briefing.

Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson clinched the upgrading contract with SingTel, while StarHub chose to go with China’s Huawei.

Besides the ongoing improvements, both operators said yesterday they are also embarking on local technical trials of another technology called Long Term Evolution (LTE). MobileOne launched a similar trial in January this year and it expects its LTE network to be ready in 2011.

LTE is considered by pundits to be the obvious successor to existing third-generation cellular technology. It will allow telcos to offer mobile broadband speeds of 100Mbps or more – a feat that rivals the fastest fixed-line broadband speeds available in Singapore today.

In Europe, Swedish operator Telia has already started on this upgrade, while NTT Docomo plans to launch its LTE network in Japan by the end of the year.

‘While we are committed to LTE for the future growth of our network, the upgrade of our existing HSPA+ network to 42Mbps DC (dual-carrier) is relatively straightforward and will provide peak data rates for our customers comparable to that which can be achieved with current LTE technologies,’ a StarHub spokeswoman said.

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