Can a tiny mobile operator break into some of Asia’s largest markets?

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Singapore’s smallest mobile operator is looking to hit the big time.

Circles.Life, the country’s only Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), announced on Tuesday its plans to expand into larger countries such as Hong Kong and Indonesia within the next year.

An MVNO is unlike a traditional mobile operator, in that it doesn’t own its infrastructure, but rather leases hardware assets such as satellite towers and transmitters from traditional players.

While the company said it’s “hit [its] target” in Singapore albeit declining to reveal exactly what that is entering Indonesia will be very different, a top exec said.

Indonesia has a population of some 250 million people, compared with Singapore’s six million.

Indonesia is Asia-Pacific’s third largest smartphone market

Image: Syuflana/AP/REX/Shutterstock

“And Indonesia is mainly a prepaid market, so people are still going to stores to top up their cards,” noted Donald Chan, director of international at Circles.Life.

That’s a vastly different market for the company, whose main sales pitch in Singapore has been to offer a “fully digital” experience of signing up online and picking a phone plan.

It hopes to target savvy millennial first-movers in Indonesia who’d more likely be attracted to the online experience, said Chan.

He added that the company already has plans to partner with telcos in Indonesia which is the third largest smartphone market in Asia-Pacific.

Dangling cheap data to compete

In Singapore, Circles.Life has aggressively taken on the stalwarts with cheap data plans.

On Tuesday, it unveiled its latest data top-up option for consumers, offering 20GB of data for $14 (S$20) per month.

In contrast, M1, whose infrastructure Circles.Life uses, offers a 13GB plan for $161.

Circles.Life already offers unlimited WhatsApp usage, and said this strategy has helped grab customers’ attention in Singapore.

It’s always great for users when operators compete.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/03/07/circles-life-singapore-indonesia/