Singtel and TPG in social media spat, former accused of 'affecting' freedom of choice

Newly launched Australian telco TPG has sparked a social media spat by accusing Singtel of denying subscribers in porting their numbers to TPG and "affecting customers' freedom of choice" through a Facebook post. This then saw telco giant Singtel put up a Facebook post to refute the allegations and clarify facts. 

The Facebook post (pasted below) by TPG Telecom, published on 28 February, said that Singtel Mobile has "repeatedly" denied all valid porting requests to TPG. According to TPG, it launched its mobile number porting service on 5 February 2020. The telco said it has since raised subscribers' concerns to the relevant authorities, and thanked customers for supporting TPG. 

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Responding to TPG's allegations on disallowing porting requests and curtailing customers' freedom of choice, Singtel published a Facebook post to clarify that it has agreed to support TPG's commercial service but that the service has yet to be launched.

The post read, "After we successfully completed end-to-end testing of the mobile number porting system, all three mobile network operators had written collectively to TPG on 10 February to say that we will support mobile number porting when they launch their commercial service. To our knowledge, they have not launched their commercial service. TPG needs to give us sufficient notice of their launch so that we can implement the necessary front-line system changes and training to facilitate the service. Unfortunately, they have not responded to date. Currently, new numbers already serve TPG’s purpose of trialling its network."

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An hour after this post by Singtel, TPG said in another Facebook post that following industry discussion and coordination with incumbent mobile operators, it will temporarily suspend number porting service. Marketing has reached out to Singtel and TPG for further comment.

TPG entered the Singapore market in 2016 as the nation's fourth telco. Since then, it has offered incentives such as free one year mobile service for new users. Meanwhile, both telcos have also thrown their hats into the ring for 5G licences issued by IMDA on nationwide 5G networks. Along with Singtel and TPG Telecom, StarHub and M1 have also filed a joint submission. 

Competitiveness between telcos are not uncommon. Singtel and Circles.Life had been at each other's throats sometime back in April 2019. It first started when Circles.Life pulled a marketing stunt with a microsite stating "Don’t go GOMO! Go Circles.Life!”, aimed at Singtel’s new GOMO plan. The telco known for its cheeky advertising had initially created a microsite which said users who switch from Singtel’s GOMO plan to Circles.Life are entitled to SG$120 cashback and SG$34 off registration. The imitated site also did a comparison of the Circles.Life’s new plan, as opposed to GOMO’s. The stunt was unveiled to be a promotion of its new referral scheme.

Shortly after, Circles.Life released a letter on The Straits Times and The New Paper addressed to fellow telcos "red" (presumably, Singtel) and "green" (ironically, StarHub) in Singapore for "finally recognising that its customers are not happy". "Since we came into the picture, you've followed our lead in giving people more. So don't get us wrong, we're really flattered. But while you guys were busy catching up, saying hello to change and yes you can, we've already come up with something better. Something no other telco has done," the letter read. 

In a subtle dig at competitor Circles.Life, which wrote an "open letter" and launched a microsite targetting Singtel's GOMO, Singtel dropped a report card in the form of a rap video. Reflecting on the teething issues it faced with its all-digital mobile product GOMO and also taking a dig at Circles.Life at the same time, the rap lyrics read: "Some other telco dissed us for relevancy. We think that they should go and get a L-I-F-E."