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Mobile Network Guide - What You Need to Know About 4G LTE
By Andy Sim - 1 Dec 2012,9:00am

4G FAQs and Parting Advice

4G LTE: Frequently Asked Questions 

We've compiled a list of commonly asked questions related to 4G LTE with the relevant answers. We hope they'd clarify some of your doubts.

1) What is 4G?

4G is a fourth generation mobile communications standard with faster data transmission speeds than 3G. Operators in Singapore are using the LTE (Long Term Evolution) subset.

2) Can I use my 4G phone overseas?

Overseas 4G/LTE providers may be using different technologies and frequency bands. Due to the fragmentation of the LTE spectrum bands, it is likely that your 4G/LTE mobile phone or tablet may not be compatible with their networks.

3) I am using a 2G SIM card. Do I need to upgrade the SIM card to enjoy 4G services?

Yes, you'll need to upgrade to a 3G or 4G SIM card. Existing 3G SIM card users are not required to perform any upgrades.  If the 4G mobile device only supports Micro SIM, then the 3G Uni SIM (Universal SIM) card needs to be swapped for a 3G Micro SIM.

4) Will a 4G SIM card work with a 3G phone/phone?

Yes, a 4G SIM card is compatible with 3G and 2G networks/devices. However, you won't be able to enjoy peak 4G/LTE speeds of 75Mbps with such a configuration since the device doesn't have the necessary hardware support.

5) I am using a 4G mobile phone with a 4G subscription. What happens if I move out of a 4G zone? 

According to SingTel, users will be able to enjoy 3G connectivity with theoretical peak download rates of up to 42Mbps when they exit 4G zones. Typical download speeds fall between 1.7Mbps and 4.8Mbps. Starhub users will enjoy similar theoretical peak 3G speeds of up to 42Mbps with the new DC-HSPA+ mobile network, while M1 users are capped at 7.2Mbps.

6) Will I be able to use 4G roaming services when I am overseas?

Apart from M1's 4G roaming services in Hong Kong and Korea, users are currently limited to 2G and 3G roaming services whilst overseas. Telcos like StarHub have plans afoot to implement 4G roaming options with countries like the Philippines in the near future.

7) My voice calls are being made in 3G mode. Why is that so?
The 4G/LTE network is strictly a mobile data network for now. As mentioned earlier, voice calls are dropped to 3G mode when a call is made. The phone would revert back to the 4G network once the call is terminated.


Parting Advice

Take time to consider your options. Do you really need a 4G subscription for your daily mobile needs? Some of its benefits include speedier throughput speeds and lesser user traffic since there are distinctly fewer 4G subscribers at this point in time. If you're lucky enough to find a sweet spot with good connectivity, it is likely you'll fire up web pages or social sites like Facebook and Twitter before the bloke plodding on 3G next to you. With typical speeds of 12Mbps or so, we have to admit we are tempted to jump onto the 4G ship ourselves. On the other hand, there are few things to consider.

If you're currently enjoying a data cap of 12GB for example, be prepared to lose 10GB or so when you re-contract your smartphone's mobile plan. Essentially, basic data plans are now capped at 2GB with all three telcos, although more expensive options like M1's MaxSurf+, SingTel's 3G Flexi Premium, and StarHub's SmartSurf Elite still come with a 12GB data bundle each month. You can check out our recent 3G/4G smartphone plans comparison where we've detailed costing breakdowns depending on your plan and data consumption.  

Snapshot of M1's data plans.

In addition, you might want to hold your horses if you're planning to re-contract your mobile plan with Singtel or StarHub. As mentioned in the previous page, islandwide 4G coverage won't be ready for these two providers till the next year rolls around. Besides, there'll be a greater number of 4G/LTE offerings by then if the current lot of LTE devices do not appeal to you. Throughput, however, may suffer when more users join the 4G airspace next year and are part of the rising concerns for the providers to tackle.

Also note that 4G zaps more power than 3G. The reason is quite simple really. Your phone is constantly toggling between the 4G and 3G networks to find the best reception. On the bright side, users may opt to throttle down their phones to the 3G network to conserve their battery power. For example, a mobile device running on a 4G network should be using the "LTE/GSM/WCDMA" mode by default. To switch back to 3G, simply select the "GSM/WCDMA" selection under the device's network mode. This option is also handy if you happen to be in an area with spotty 4G coverage where it's wiser to lock the phone down to 3G, thus helping conserve some power.

Network modes on a 4G device.

Currently, 4G data plans are priced equally as 3G options, albeit on a promotional basis. According to SingTel's microsite, it is indicated that their "4G service is offered at the same price as 3G until otherwise determined by SingTel", whilst M1's disclaimer states that monthly subscriptions for 4G VAS (Value Added Service) will be waived "until further notice". StarHub's message is a little more specific. Under their SmartSurf plans, it is highlighted that charges for the Speed Boost VAS is waived till 31st December 2013. What that in mind, there is a possibility that telcos may "adjust" the price plans after the "free" 4G incentive ends. We'll of course keep our HardwareZone readers informed should there be changes in telco price plans or services, so stay tuned for future updates!

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