3G is the third-generation of mobile communications technology for mobile phones. Although not the newest thing anymore (it’s been out for maybe two years now and 3.5G is already being rolled out), widespread use of 3G services still isn’t very common. Many people probably already have a 3G-enabled phone connecting to a 3G network, but not many are really making use of the 3G services or applications that ride on 3G services.
Recently, I had the need to get readily available Internet access (that means from “anywhere”). Sure in Singapore you have free Wireless@SG, but Wireless@SG is oversold — it is far from being everywhere. 3G is everywhere. You don’t need a Delifrance or a Starbucks or a MacDonalds. You just need a phone signal… and that’s basically everywhere. But one of the problems with 3G is the somewhat prohibitive data charges.
In Singapore, the mobile telcos offer free 3G video calls. Video calls are being sold as “the” killer 3G app. So giving free 3G video calls sounds like good marketing. But I don’t think video calls are all that fun (in fact they often tend not to be very practical, what with the audio usually having to come out through the loudspeaker in hands-free mode so that everyone around you also hears your entire conversation). For me, it is the Internet connectivity provided by 3G that makes it so useful.
In researching my 3G data subscription, I’ve found that they are generally quite expensive (except, of course, for that one plan I finally settled upon). SingTel Mobile, for example, charges as much as 37 cents per KB.
|Highest per KB:||37 cents||1.05 cents||1.05 cents|
|Lowest per KB:||0.32 cents||0.315 cents|
Of course there are many factors to consider such as the subscription charges, the bundled data volume, etc. But suffice to say… it is not cheap.
Ok, but I did find something from M1 that worked quite well. M1 used to offer a $68 unlimited data service (they also have a $22 unlimited standalone data plan, i.e. it is not a value added service added onto a voice plan). It seems they’ve realized unlimited doesn’t work and they’ve since revised to a $23.10 “SunSurf 22” data VAS with 1GB bundled (the $22 standalone data plan now has a 5GB cap).
The $23.10 plan works out pretty cheap. Excess data after the bundled 1GB is $10.50 per GB (or 0.00105 cents per KB). Is 1GB enough? For someone with an “always on” broadband access at home, and even faster “always on” Internet access at work… 1GB sounds extremely miserly. But it turns out 1GB on a 3G service is quite sufficient for moderate use. Why? Inspite of how 3G is described as “high speed”, it isn’t fast enough — so you won’t use up the volume that quickly!
Having cheap (free is always better of course) Internet access on your 3G phone opens up many possibilities to what you can do: Web surfing on the phone (if it has a decent web browser), accessing email (GMail has a mobile phone application), IM, blogging, etc. We know these things are possible with 3G. Being able to do it on your 3G phone is neat. But actually using the services in your every day life changes things quite a bit. Like many other technologies, price is a sticking point — it has to be cheap enough for it to easily reach the mass market.
While the Internet has revolutionarized and connected the world, 3G will further bring that connectedness to you on the run. With mobile phones already becoming PDA + Camera + Music Player (or “It’s what computers have become” — Nokia tagline for their new N95), being “always connected” is going to impact how we live, work and play!