Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Squeezing Out Square Deals

The Singapore government unveiled a new ambitious infocomm blueprint yesterday, naming it iN2015 (Intelligent Nation 2015). One of the major thrust was to get broadband prices amongst the cheapest in the world. The lack of true competition now meant that consumers had been consistently shortchanged and had to fork out much higher prices per MB of connection speed.

Only recently did Singnet come up with an offering of unlimited 512Kbps at prices below $30 and the other ISP have so far not seem to engage Singnet in dropping their prices. My guess is that this price war is not going to start anytime soon. The reason being the other major contender, Starhub, had most probably locked in consumers with freebies bundled with 2 year contracts and few users will be willing to pay the punitive damages.

The only consumers with bargaining power to negotiate a square deal are those subscribers whom are not under contracts. The threat of termination and switching to another ISP is usually sufficient for the ISP's customer service to counterpropose some discounts/freebies. The feeling is not nice when one has to resort to such tactics to squeeze out good square deals but there is not much choice when ISP's are quietly collecting the extra subscriptions when they can jolly well reward loyal subscribers whom had finished contracts with them.

As far as it is known, Starhub will offer S$10.50 off the monthly subscription for Maxonline 4000 with a 1 year contract when the termination threat is made. With the binding 1 year contract which carries a penalty of $120 for early termination, it may perhaps not be the best square deal at S$48.60 since nationwide wireless broadband is expected to be launched soon. Once the nationwide wireless broadband is available, the prices of connected broadband is expected to tumble. The offer of cheaper monthly fee is a deal that is seriously worth considering though since the wireless broadband will only be trial and the exact date of actual implementation is still quite unknown.

It might seem cheapskate to skimp on those few dollars, but if we take into considerations the savings made on Internet subscriptions, phone bills, credit card membership fees, etc, the savings are potentially significant at hundreds of dollars! A little troublesome, a little negotiations, a little tracking and a little thickskinness will bring us good square deals and extra spending cash in the pocket. :-)

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