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I am in the eighth month of a year-long free trial offered by the telco TPG. (Note: This entry was neither sanctioned nor sponsored by TPG.)

In my first reflection, I was disappointed by the lack of signal in below ground areas, i.e., some MRT stations and mall basement levels. My TPG SIM phone would indicate “no signal” while my StarHub SIM phone worked fine.

Last month a study conducted by mobile analytics firm, OpenSignal, revealed that TPG Telecom had slower speeds and poorer signals than Singtel, StarHub, and M1.

The telco responded. This month I discovered that TPG’s reach had improved. I frequent a basement level grocery store about once a week and was able to get a usable signal there.

My reflection is not about what an organisation might do in the face of competition or how they should respond to bad news. It is about rolling out change.

One principle of change is:

Doing things differently does not always mean doing things better. But doing things better always means doing things differently. -- Hank McKinnell

TPG made waves when it first announced that it would provide free two-year plans for seniors and then also offered a year-long free trial to all others. The first move does social good; the second helps capture a user base. The moves are examples of doing better by being different.

However, mobile calls are still only available on voice over LTE (VoLTE) enabled devices. This limits voice calls to some phones by Huawei, Oppo, and Samsung.

According to TPG’s general manager, Apple has “refused to add the telco’s settings to its carrier settings.” This excludes upwards of 40% of the mobile phone users. Doing things differently does not mean this results in doing things better.

We might find many other examples of this change principle in action if we bother to look. But will we bother to learn? Or will we needlessly make the same mistakes?

I am into my first month of a 12-month free trial with Singapore’s newest telco, TPG. Here is what I have experienced so far.

TPG trial

Some time late in 2018, I registered my interest in joining the trial.

On 8 Jan 2019, I received email informing me that I was “one of the first 20,000 registrants for the service trial”. I clicked on the link, but got stuck in the sign up process because it could not allocate me a phone number.

My guess is that TPG did not provide sign up codes so recipients of the email could simply forward them to any one else. This could mean that non-registrants cut the queue.

Thankfully there was another email call on 25 Jan and I was quick enough to sign up. I picked up my new SIM at a temporary office space in town after verifying my identity.

What has the performance of TPG been like so far?

The throughput is generally reliable. However, the signal strength drops to one bar at home and even zero when underground, e.g., MRT stations, mall basements.

When there is a signal, I can count on 4G/LTE speeds even when I do not have full bars on my spare phone. Once I tethered the phone to my son’s laptop so that he could show a YouTube video to a relative. The signal varied from one to two bars, but the video played smoothly.

At the moment, the reliability of the signal and its strength varies by location. I frequent two malls that are side-by-side — in one mall I get a strong signal; in the other I might as well be in airplane mode.

Cannot join Wireless@SG even with phone profile installed while on TPG connection.

Another issue that I have faced is that I cannot perform SIM-based authentication for Wireless@SGx wifi. I do not really need this given the generous 2GB a day allowance, but it does not make sense for TPG subscribers to be excluded from what is available to everyone else.

Being a participant on a trial means that TPG needs to collect data by monitoring the robustness, reach, and reliability of its network. I do not know if it is also collecting qualitative data like mine, but I offer this perspective freely because quality is measured not just in numbers.

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