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The best SIM for data in Singapore: StarHub roadtest 2012

By John Walton     Filed under: Singapore, data roaming, Singapore Changi, Starhub, Starhub MaxMobile Prepaid SIM

As ever, Australian Business Traveller brings you the very latest in best value ways to get online while travelling abroad – especially when it means avoiding the rort that is global roaming with your Australian SIM from Telstra, Optus or Vodafone.

On a recent trip to Singapore, I followed up on last year's roadtest of the StarHub MaxMobile Prepaid data micro-SIM, which this year cost just SG$18 (A$14) all-in for 5 days' unlimited access.

(Note: this is the data-only Internet card, not the StarHub Preferred Tourist Prepaid Card, which gives voice calls too, but only 30MB of data.)

Setup

I arrived at Singapore's Changi Airport and turned right out of the arrivals hall, looking for one of the many UOB foreign exchange windows.

StarHub and UOB are partners, so you just hand over the cash for the SIM card credit you want, plus your phone and passport. (Credit cards are charged as cash advances, which is a bad idea, so hand over the SGD or foreign currency, hitting an ATM if you need to.)

The UOB staff slot the SIM in for you, sort out your phone's settings, ask you which plan you want and hand it all back to you working and ready to go.

Amazingly easy, no extra charge, and done in a minute. More mobile carriers need to offer a service like this.

Cost

Travellers in Singapore for five days or under will find the SG$18 (A$14) five-day unlimited data plan (which also supports laptop tethering, even on an iPhone) to their liking.

There are many alternatives using the SG$32 (A$25) SIM if your trip is longer, including an unlimited 7-day plan for SG$28, which comes off the price you paid for the SIM.

One-hour unlimited plans are SG$3, one-day unlimited plans for SG$6, and there's a SG$28 thirty-day 2GB plan too. Check out the full pricing table for all the relevant details.

Speed and coverage

The network speed across Singapore was pretty good during the week's roadtest. This year, I ended up averaging around 4Mbps down for the most part, and 1-2Mbps up, which was as expected.

The speed tended to slow down in busy places with lots of buildings -- Orchard Road, Changi Airport, in the CBD -- where things went around 1-2Mbps down and 0.5Mbps up.

As you'd expect, reception and speed are better closer to street level than on the top floors. 

But given the population density of Singapore, the only place I couldn't get a signal or a data connection was in a sub-basement at Lucky Plaza on Orchard Road. Impressive.

Topup

Topping up is pretty easy: by credit card on StarHub's website or by voucher from UOB, StarHub shops, 7 Eleven or Cheers convenience stores.

You nearly can't throw a rock in Singapore without hitting at least two of those, and topup is simple, with English instructions.

Network compatibility

The Starhub 3G network uses the 2100MHz band so it should work with all Australian mobiles and modems, including the iPhone and iPad. I certainly had no problems with my iPhone 4.

Summary

StarHub is still my gold standard for simplicity and value, and since I tried it out last year I haven't had a better experience sorting out a local SIM card.

The network is great, the price is low, the speed and reliability are excellent, and the fact that it's all installed within a couple of minutes right at the airport? Priceless, and highly recommended.

For full details, visit Starhub's MaxMobile website.

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About John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

 

Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 15/2/12 by braddsey

I bought this sim while in Singapore this last 2 weeks.  I was only using my iPhone for maps, email, occasional surfing, and skype home to the family.  My plan was to go with the $32 for 2.5gb over 60 days option.

Unfortunately when activating the card, I found that there was only $31.85 credit available - so it's not possible to take the $32 option listed available.  There's some 0.15c per day charge (or something like that).  It's not possible to topup available credit online via credit card - you have to buy an entension.  The final outcome was it cost me $38 to have access for 9 days - far from what I really wanted.

Next time I'm in Singapore hopefully I can still use the same card, otherwise I'll be looking for a different option.

Other than that, coverage was mostly good.  Very annoyed though!

2 on 14/9/12 by nicholas_yue

I was in Singapore a couple of weeks ago using the S$18 option for an old Optus iPhone3GS and tethering to my MacBook when required. It works a treat.

I tried using the SIM on a HuaWei E585 (from the old '3' network) so that I can continue to use my iPhone 3GS for voice roaming but it wouldn't work. Not sure if I have to get that unlock the HuaWei.

I am heading back to Singapore soon and would love to use HuaWei as MiFi rather than iPhone tethering. If anyone has info about using HuaWei E585 on StarHub, some pointers would be appreciated.

Best regards

1 on 20/9/12 by John

Sorry, I missed this comment the first time round! It'll depend on whether your mifi is unlocked and whether it works with StarHub's network. I'd suggest doing a bit of Google sleuthing to see if anyone else has the same questions!

3 on 20/9/12 by ruopukoh

i've tried this all around the touristy parts of SIN and nope, doesn't work. I'm lucky if a webpage even loads. 95% of the time i just get a 'check your network connection'

money well spent really

1 on 20/9/12 by John

Not sure which bits of Singapore you visited, but as anyone who follows my Instagram and Twitter feeds will attest with a groan, I had a good old wander around SIN and, as before, the only place I didn't get a connection was at my favourite footrub place in the basement of Lucky Plaza. (Oh, and in the elevator at the Marriott.) Did you pop into one of the many StarHub shops around Singapore to see if they had any suggestions?

 

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