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StarHub unveils 'mesh network' Google WiFi

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Google WiFi differs from traditional routers by being a mesh networking system made up of multiple nodes, more of which can be added if wider coverage in a home is required.

Singapore

BAD Internet is usually worse than no Internet, as the saying goes. To solve that problem, StarHub has announced an exclusive partnership with tech giant Google to bring the company's high-powered WiFi solution to local shores.

Called Google WiFi, it differs from traditional routers by being a mesh networking system made up of multiple nodes, more of which can be added if wider coverage in a home is required.

Martin Geh, managing director of Asia-Pacific hardware partnerships at Google, said: "The ecosystem here is strong, we have a great partner in StarHub, which is a household name, high service levels and high-quality networks which deliver great speeds."

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From Aug 31, new or recontracting StarHub customers can get a three-pack Google WiFi at S$0 upfront when they sign up for selected StarHub Broadband or Hubbing all-in-one plans.

It costs S$15 per month over 24 months, on top of the usual contract fees.

If a customer chooses, for example, StarHub's one gigabit-per-second (Gbps) fibre stand-alone plan together with Google WiFi, they would pay S$54.90 per month for the package.

StarHub's stand-alone 1Gbps Fibre Broadband plan, and its SurfHub, HomeHub 1000 and HomeHub Go 1Gbps bundles are all eligible for Google WiFi.

StarHub will sell additional Google WiFi nodes outside the bundled three-pack for S$199 each.

Google and StarHub declined to specify when the exclusive deal would end, or when Google WiFi would go on sale on the open market. Google also did not say if this was part of a larger consumer push into Singapore and South-east Asia. S-E Asia lacks the Google online store through which the company sells its consumer products.

If StarHub's customers bundled its 1Gbps fibre package price with Google WiFi, it would be cheaper compared to M1's plans with a similar mesh network bundled. M1's bundles with the Asus Lyra and Linksys Velop with a 1Gbps fibre connection come in at S$55 and S$59.90 per month respectively.

Singtel does not package any mesh networking WiFi with its bundles, though it does offer AirTies and Linksys Velop mesh network WiFi systems separately.

MyRepublic does not offer mesh networking equipment.

Mr Geh characterised the partnership with StarHub as an "aligned" one, with both companies crucially sharing similar goals.

Alongside him at the press conference - held at Google Singapore's office - StarHub's chief marketing officer Howie Lau said with the introduction of Google WiFi, home broadband customers can enjoy wireless broadband connections wherever they are in the house.

He touted the expandability and ease of use as key reasons for bringing the product to Singapore, the first in South-east Asia and eighth in the world to get Google WiFi.

"We looked at customer feedback regarding connectivity, and it's quite consistently three categories: coverage, ease of use and aesthetics," said Mr Lau.

Google WiFi is exclusive to StarHub for now.

To date, local telcos have yet to bring in similar offerings from Google, such as the Google Home smart assistant or Google Pixel mobile phones, leaving e-commerce sites to fill the dearth of the tech giant's products, often at significantly marked-up prices.

A check on local e-commerce sites revealed a pack of three on Qoo10 costs S$525.70 with shipping, and S$654 on Lazada for the same at the time of print.

According to statistics by the Infocomm Media Development Authority, 91 per cent of Singapore households have access to broadband Internet.

Earlier this year, The Business Times reported Singapore's average fixed Internet connection speed is close to three times the global average, at 18.2 mbps compared to 6.3 mbps globally, making it one of the fastest countries in the world for broadband speeds.

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