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Analyzing the roaming experience of Singapore users in Malaysia

A lot has changed since we last analyzed the mobile experience of Singaporean roamers in Malaysia — including the passing of the COVID-19 pandemic and the launch of SIMBA (formerly known as TPG). With international travel back to normal, now is a good time to revisit this topic.

Our StarHub and Singtel users come top for 4G Download Speed when roaming in Malaysia, while those on Singtel have the best experience when playing multiplayer mobile games over 4G networks (4G Games Experience). For roaming to take place, operators need to set up roaming agreements with those in other countries. Our M1 users roam almost entirely on Celcom, while SIMBA users mostly roam on Celcom, with a significant minority on Digi. A slim majority of Singtel users roam on Maxis, followed by Digi and Celcom, while StarHub users roam on a mix of Maxis, Digi, U Mobile and Celcom.

This piece analyzes the 4G experience of Singaporean users with sims registered to an operator from their home country while they were in Malaysia. We focus on the 4G experience as that’s the network generation they use the most.

StarHub and Singtel roamers in Malaysia observe the fastest average 4G download speeds with statistically tied scores of 31.9-36.7Mbps, while M1 and SIMBA roamers follow with tied scores of 25.9-28.1Mbps. These scores compare favorably against the experience of Malaysian users, whose speeds average 22.4Mbps.

Roaming users’ speeds are influenced by a large number of factors, including the radio access network (RAN) used, the nature of the roaming agreement — as some may prioritize local users at roamers’ expense — and the route that data takes back to the home network, as any poor link along the way can result in lower speeds.

M1, SIMBA and StarHub users tie for the fastest average 4G upload speeds when roaming in Malaysia with statistically tied scores of 7.9-9.2Mbps. Singtel, with its score of 7.6Mbps, narrowly loses out on sharing the top spot with its rivals, as its upper confidence interval does not overlap with M1’s lower confidence interval. As with 4G download speed, these results compare favorably against the experience of Malaysian users — which see 4G upload speeds of 7.4Mbps.

Singtel users have the best 4G Games Experience when roaming in Malaysia with a score of 64.5 points on a 100-point scale, followed by M1 with 59.9 points, while StarHub and SIMBA share last place with identical scores of 52.8 points. The roaming experience on all four operators places in the Poor (40-65) category, while the experience of our Malaysian users in Malaysia rates as Fair (65-75).

This difference between roamers and non-roamers experience makes sense for a latency-sensitive application like mobile gaming. This is because additional latency and potential bottlenecks can be created by having to relay the information between host and home core networks and between the home core and the content delivery networks (see the diagram below).

There is less of a difference between the 4G experience of our Singaporean roamers and Malaysian users when streaming video. Starting with roamers, our StarHub, Singtel and SIMBA users lead with statistically tied scores of 59.5-62.7 points on a 100-point scale, narrowly earning Good (58-68) ratings while M1 places last, just missing out on a Good rating with a score of 57.5 points. These results are similar to the experience of Malaysian users that observe a Good 4G Video Experience on average.

Look out for more insights on the mobile experience of our Singaporean users in the coming months. To learn about how Singapore’s operators measure up on their home turf, see the latest mobile network experience report — which for the first time analyzes our users’ 5G experience.