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'People do not rate telcos highly', says StarHub executive, while axing default mobile contract plans

THE reputation of Singapore telcos is in decline, a key StarHub executive has suggested, even as the company moved on Wednesday to replace its existing slate of post-paid mobile plans.

The telco has unveiled a set of three contract-free SIM-only options, in its first consumer mobile product offering since Peter Kaliaropoulos took over as chief executive in July.

Such a product type is closely associated with mobile virtual network operators, but has also been rolled out by all three of their mobile network operator hosts, including StarHub. This move has helped to support subscriber numbers - but at a cost to mobile average revenues per user and the telcos' top lines.

Checks with the three listed telcos showed that StarHub rolled out contract-free SIM-only plans in November 2015, with M1 doing so in July 2015 and Singtel in September 2015. (see amendment note)

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StarHub's new plans, which will be available from Thursday, range from S$25 to S$80 a month for data and talktime, with caller number display and international roaming included. More data, and services such as international data roaming and short message service (SMS), can be bought as add-ons.

StarHub will also not charge any one-time administrative, activation and SIM card fees, which it said could set the average user back by as much as S$200 in a year.

Despite the shift to a contract-free model, customers can still opt to be locked to the telco for two years to be eligible for new handsets - as is the present industry practice.

Johan Buse, chief of StarHub's consumer business group, said in a media statement: "We hate to admit it, but people do not rate telcos highly. This is a regrettable reality, and we are determined to earn back customers' trust and be the telco that they deserve."

Under Mr Kaliaropoulos, StarHub launched a strategic restructuring in October, with the customer experience and digital customer service initiatives identified among areas for focus and investment.

StarHub had some 1.39 million post-paid mobile customers as at Sept 30, or about 26.2 per cent of the post-paid market in Singapore, according to monthly figures published by the Infocommunications Media Development Authority.

Amendment note: An earlier version of this story said that StarHub introduced contract-free SIM-only plans in 2013. It has since corrected its statement and clarified that it did so in November 2015.