Switching to StarHub

Update: 2014-12-18 FINALLY StarHub flicked the switch! You can tell VoLTE works by Tapping About→Carrier

Switching to a better mobile deal is quite tricky in Singapore.

I compared Singtel, M1 & StarHub by their 3GB plans, but there are some hidden costs.

The postpaid 4G 3GB plan with @M1_Singapore is 41SGD monthly, @Singtel 62.90 & @StarHub 34.32…

— Kai Hendry (@kaihendry) November 30, 2014

Firstly, you need take a chunk of time out of your day to re-contract. Despite what StarHub might say, to open your new line, you need to go to a StarHub shop. I darkly predicted a 3hr mission to Bugis. I was not far wrong. The wait, signup and payment took almost exactly 90 minutes, we are now exhausted!

Things you need in order to switch

You need to ensure you are "not contracted" still if you are switching. The terminology is very confusing in Singapore. Since on some plans after an initial 1 year contract, you automatically get migrated by your current operator/carrier (mine was M1) to a typically more expensive "rolling contract".

A rolling contract means you are not contracted. If you are not contracted StarHub can take care of the switch, but they can't tell if you are contracted or not contracted. You must find out beforehand, or risk losing your money.

The little gotchas

The StarHub 4G "3" plan we switched to from M1 is 34.32, but Caller Display ... a fundamental feature is astonishingly a 5.35SGD a month addon / "Value-Added Service". So your bill ends up being 40.09SGD a month.

The other big gotcha is that you need to pay for the new SIM cards + "activation cost". So this the switching cost to look out for. So that is 37.45SGD per line. So for my wife and I, out came the cash card, nervous looks and a painful swallow for 74.90SGD.

After 12 months, the line loses the initial 20% discount and ramps up. So every year, to save 20%, you should recontract. I.e. spend an afternoon in a Starhub shop.

While you are signing up aka the assistant typing in all your details into a baroque PDF form (since they use PDF for their business processes, I think this proves they don't use Web forms / i.e. an online process yet), you can and should ask for:

The next few days

Previously we had free calls between each other, and StarHub has a similar feature, however you need to call customer services to nominate the numbers in their HappyTalk scheme. You can't do this online. Update: Since we get 150 free minutes a month, I don't think we need HappyTalk which I later figured out cost 10SGD to activate.

Furthermore, you need to call and setup E-billing. Bit of a shame they can't setup an online account there and then in the shop.

Update: The porting was announced via SMS on M1, that it would happen on the 1st Dec. I noticed about midnight on the 1st no service on the M1 card so we switched to the StarHub SIM card. We tried calling each other, but it failed. In the morning, however is working fine! There was a confirmation SMS that the port was successful at 9AM.

The StarHub staff implies the switch should be smooth and we shouldn't be double charged. We lay in wait for the next M1 bill!

Where you sign 6 times without seeing what you are signing

The last and probably most annoying thing, is that to setup a UK style "Direct Debit" or Giro as it is called here in Singapore, you need to do some legwork with your bank. It's not an automated process, and StarHub doesn't do sane things like present you with a pre-filled bank instruction. Which is surprising, because that means StarHub won't know when they will get paid and leads to all sorts of other costs like sending reminder letters to pay. sigh

M1 versus StarHub

I heard from a couple of sources that StarHub is currently the most modern network and the first and only operator supporting HD voice in Singapore.

What's HD voice? It's actually an interesting 4G VOIP implementation locked to the carrier, so you can't "SIP2SIM" away to a 3rd party sadly. An easy way to tell if you have it or not, is to make a call and watch the 4G symbol. Did the call drop to 3G data speeds? Yes? You don't have HD then!

UPDATE: I've noticed my reception dropping to 3G when taking calls, so AFAICT StarHub have messed up HD audio on my new line. I'm trying to get through to someone sane in support and failing.

4G speeds atm from Geylang seems roughly the same, about 40mbit/sec down. However StarHub's upload seems a little more capped than M1.

Therefore it takes roughly just 11 minutes of full speed downloading to blow the 3GB monthly included data. Each extra 1GB is charged at 10.70SGD, which caps at 168SGD.

StarHub might be on Twitter, but whoever is handling the account is absolutely useless: http://greptweet.com/u/starhubcares/#kaihendry

The $$$ saving

My wife calculated that through switching we should save about 96SGD for the year, compared to just re-contracting with M1 for the 3GB plan. Is that worth an afternoon in a Starhub shop? I'll let you decide. ;)


If you like this, you might like the stateless Web kiosk software I develop. Webconverger typically replaces Windows on PCs and is deployed in public and business environments for ease of deployment and privacy. Once installed it auto-updates making it painless to maintain. Try it where you exclusively use the only viable open platform... the Web!