Circles.Life to expand to Taiwan, Australia this year after securing Sequoia investment

Circles.Life to expand to Taiwan, Australia this year after securing Sequoia investment

Rameez Ansar
Circles.Life co-founder and director Rameez Ansar.

SINGAPORE: Mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Circles.Life on Thursday (Feb 14) announced it will be expanding its presence from beyond Singapore’s shores, with plans to enter Taiwan and Australia this year.

READ: ‘Future of telco industry is not telcos’: Circles.Life's co-founder shares how AI, data will shape its strategy

Its regional expansion plans come after it closed a Series C funding round led by Sequoia India, the company said in a press release. No details on the size of investment that was raised were disclosed.

CEO Rameez Ansar told Channel NewsAsia in an interview before the announcement that this is one of the few times Sequoia is investing in a telco, which is testament to what the company is trying to achieve - creating a telco experience on top of the infrastructure akin to what Uber and Grab did to disrupt the taxi industry.

"Circles.Life is everything a traditional telco is not," said Sequoia Capital India Advisors' Mohit Bhatnagar of the investment.

"The company's differentiating factor is to offer a mobile data service that is controlled completely through a mobile app. Customers love it: No physical stores, no call centres - just a mobile service that works," he told Channel NewsAsia.

With the fund injection, the company said there are plans to launch in at least five markets in the next 18 months, with Taiwan slated for the second quarter of this year followed by Australia in the next quarter. It added it will invest more than S$50 million in each launch.

“Circles.Life has already signed deals with key networks which have the widest coverage in both countries and will be the first to introduce a 100 per cent digital telco experience in these markets,” it added.

Mr Rameez pinpointed Taiwan as a market that has many similarities with Singapore, but with more room for growth. He said it has one of the highest smartphone penetration rates internationally at about 81 per cent, it is predominantly a post-paid market and on 4G mobile networks, and about 83 per cent of users access the Internet via their mobile phones. 

It is also a market primarily dominated by three major telcos - Chunghwa Telecom, Far Eastone and Taiwan Mobile - and has an average revenue per user (ARPU) of between S$26 and S$30.

“The Taiwanese market is fundamentally attractive from our perspective and there is an opportunity to full the need for a fully customisable digital telco,” the CEO said.  

The three-year-old MVNO had previously identified Indonesia as its first overseas market and was expected to launch in the second half of 2018, but that has yet to happen. 

Mr Rameez reiterated that Indonesia is among the five launch markets, but declined to give an exact date. He did point out there are already about 30 people there working on its launch.

UNLIMITED DATA OPTION INTRODUCED

On Thursday, the company also confirmed it will tweak its S$20 for 20GB add-on option to an unlimited data cap for the same price. 

This comes a day after it had sent out an email to subscribers in Singapore saying the Data Plus option will no longer be available starting from March. It cited tight market competition as the reason on Wednesday, in response to Channel NewsAsia’s queries. 

It is also launching a device insurance plan for S$7 a month, in partnership with HL Assurance. The add-on option covers screen cracks, liquid damages and door-to-door replacements, the company said. 

Source: CNA/kk

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