Feature Articles

Hands-on: M1 4G LTE for Smartphones - Preliminary Speed Test

Synthetic Benchmarks and Real-life Speed Tests

First Nationwide 4G LTE Network

While SingTel retains the honour of being the first telco in Singapore to launch 4G LTE service for smartphones in June, M1 one-ups its competitors by launching the first nationwide 4G LTE network in South East Asis for Singapore on 15 September. This leaves StarHub as the last telco to jump on the bandwagon. In a recent press statement, StarHub stated that it will be launching its first phase of its LTE network soon in key business areas.

Besides its 4G LTE announcement, M1 also unveiled its new smartphone and mobile broadband plans. Needless to say, M1 followed in the footsteps of SingTel to introduce data caps across its plans. Here's a quick look at its smartphone plans:

New M1 Smartphone Service Plans
   ValueSurf+ LiteSurf+ ExtremeSurf+ MaxSurf+
 Monthly Subscription

 3G: $39
 

4G: $49.70

 3G: $59
(previous: $55)

4G: $69.70

3G: $98
(previous: $95)

4G: $108.70

3G: $198
 

4G: $208.70

 Local Outgoing Mins 120  300
(previous: 250)
700
(previous: 600)
Unlimited
 Local SMS  600
(previous: 500)
800
(previous: 500)
1,000
(previous: 500)
2,000
 Local Data Bundle

2GB

(previous: 12GB)

3GB

(previous: 12GB)

5GB

(previous: unlimited)


12GB
 Excess Data Charges $5.35 per GB, capped at $94.16
(previous cap at $69.30) 

New M1 iPhone Plans
   iPhone Value+ iPhone Lite+ iPhone Extreme+ iPhone Max+
 Monthly Subscription

$36

$56

$98

$198

 Local Outgoing Mins 100  300 700 Unlimited
 Local SMS

 600
(previous: 500)

 800
(previous: 500)

 1,000
(previous: 500)

 2,000

 Local Data Bundle

2GB

(previous: 12GB)

3GB

(previous: 12GB)

5GB

(previous: unlimited)

12GB

(previous: unlimited)

 Excess Data Charges $5.35 per GB, capped at $94.16
(previous cap at $30) 
Typical Download Speeds 1.2Mbps to 6.7Mbps (at fixed locations)
Previous: 0.9Mbps to 4.5Mbps

 

As the telcos have either offered or indicated their intentions (in the case of StarHub) to switch over to new tiered plans, it may get a little too overwhelming for you to keep track of the changes. Therefore, we have tabulated the different plans for your easy reference. If you need more assistance to cut through all the possible charges incurred, we illustrate the information with charts to help you make a more informed decision based on your usage needs.

 

Preliminary Speed Tests - Here We Go Again

M1 has kindly provided us with the HTC One XL LTE-capable smartphone and a 4G SIM card to test out its network over the weekend. Similar to what we did with SingTel, we subjected its 4G LTE network to the following tests:

  • Pinging a local server (Singapore, NewMedia Express) via the Speedtest.net app to check its download and upload speeds
     
  • Downloading a 20MB MP4 file from Dropbox
     
  • Downloading a 2GB ISO file via a local server to determine the top speed

The tests were conducted at four different locations: 

  • North: Woodlands, Causeway Point
     
  • Central: Raffles Place
     
  • East: Changi Airport Terminal 2
     
  • West: Chua Chu Kang Lot 1

     

Synthetic Benchmark: Speedtest.net

The first test was to determine the latency, download and upload speeds. We used the Speedtest.net app as it is one of the most widely used apps for testing mobile Internet speeds. We ran the app on the New Media Express server three times to get the average score.

Do note that M1's 4G LTE network currently supports theoretical download speeds of up to 75Mbps, and typical download speeds at fixed locations between 6.9Mbps to 17.4Mbps.

Download Speeds (Mbps) - Indoor test unless otherwise stated
  M1 SingTel
Causeway Point
(North)
13.31 62.82
Chua Chu Kang
Lot 1 (West)
10.88 (indoor)
5.01 (outdoor)
60.41 (indoor)
47.47 (outdoor)
Raffles Place
(Central)
5.55 (indoor)
6.32 (outdoor)
59.48 (indoor)
78.64 (outdoor)
Changi Airport
Terminal 2 (East) 
4.43 65.34

 

Upload Speeds (Mbps) - Indoor test unless otherwise stated
  M1 SingTel
Causeway Point
(North)
14.81 29.68
Chua Chu Kang
Lot 1 (West)

14.69 (indoor)
  4.28 (outdoor)

32.75 (indoor)
26.31 (outdoor)

Raffles Place
(Central)
16.51 (indoor)
15.57 (outdoor)
38.49 (indoor)
43.93 (outdoor)
Changi Airport
Terminal 2 (East) 
3.49 27.84

 

Ping (ms) - Indoor test unless otherwise stated
  M1 SingTel
Causeway Point
(North)
74 38
Chua Chu Kang
Lot 1 (West)

72  (indoor)
93 (outdoor)

35 (indoor)
37 (outdoor)

Raffles Place
(Central)
58 (indoor)
55 (outdoor)
41 (indoor)
35 (outdoor)
Changi Airport
Terminal 2 (East) 
60 41

 

Real-world Download Speed Tests: Dropbox Test

Our second test involved downloading a 20MB file from Dropbox, arguably the most widely used cloud storage service (even HTC and Samsung offer it on their phones).

Time Taken (secs) to Download 20MB File from Dropbox - Indoor test unless otherwise stated
  M1 SingTel
Causeway Point
(North)
107.1 39
Chua Chu Kang
Lot 1 (West)

83.1 (indoor)
69.2 (outdoor)

44.2 (indoor)
27.6 (outdoor)

Raffles Place
(Central)
360.1 (indoor)
 422.1 (outdoor)
30.6 (indoor)
30.5 (outdoor)
Changi Airport
Terminal 2 (East) 
36.2 25.9

 

Real-world Download Speed Tests: 2GB ISO File Test

Our final test was to download a freely distributed CentOS ISO image file that is 2GB in size. We observed the top download speed that it could achieve.

Top Speed (MB/s) Achieved When Downloading 2GB ISO file - Indoor test unless otherwise stated
  M1 SingTel
Causeway Point
(North)
3.11 3.97
Chua Chu Kang
Lot 1 (West)

4.88 (indoor)
2.88 (outdoor)

4.56 (indoor)
5.84 (outdoor)

Raffles Place
(Central)
2.04 (indoor)
2.39 (outdoor)

4.28 (indoor)
3.84 (outdoor)

Changi Airport
Terminal 2 (East) 
3.68 3.94

 

Analysis

Despite the fact that there is hardly anyone else using the 4G network at the moment, the Speedtest.net app results were a far cry from what we've seen on SingTel's network. And it didn't differ much in our real-world trials either. One possible reason could be that SingTel's 4G coverage is concentrated in lesser areas (between 50-80%) than M1 in Singapore, hence it is possible that the signal strength is stronger.

Another possible reason could be due to certain prevailing network conditions that may be present during our tests. However, we've reduced much of the errors by conducting multiple download tests and what you see above are average speeds collected after three consecutive tests. While it doesn't paint a bright picture for M1, this is just a preliminary test prior to the full launch. We'll quite likely re-evaluate the performance for all relevant telcos sometime later in the year when there are more 4G network users.