Mr Mah Bow Tan, Minister for Communications Speech - TAS 5th Anniversary Dinner & Dance
Mr Mah Bow Tan, Minister for Communications
Speech - TAS 5th Anniversary Dinner & Dance
Singapore, 1 April 1997
1 April 1997 is a special day for TAS and its staff. It has been five challenging, exciting and I hope rewarding years for the reconstituted regulatory authority, after corporatising its commercial operations to Singapore Telecom and Singapore Post. Today is also a watershed in the evolution of the telecommunications industry and the consumers of telecom services in Singapore- the start of competition in the mobile communication industry. I am very happy to be here to share this special day with all of you.
From today, consumers have a choice of two cellular phone operators and four paging operators. Both the new operators and the incumbent operators have lost no time to win new customers and keep existing ones with very aggressive marketing and attractive packages. I am sure consumers in Singapore must be pleased. They now have a wider range of products and services at very competitive prices.
But consumers are not the only beneficiaries of such an environment. This new competitive environment will also bring benefits to the industry players, including the operators, the equipment manufacturers and dealers. I would like to take this occasion to congratulate MobileOne, Hutchinson Intrapage, and ST Messaging for successfully launching their respective commercial cellular phone and paging services today and to wish them, as well as SingTel Mobile, SingTel Paging and all equipment dealers every success in the months and years ahead.
Managing Healthy and Effective Competition
While we welcome competition and expect it to be keen, we should also keep competition healthy and sustainable in the long term. TAS plays a pivotal role in ensuring a market environment that is healthy, competitive and beneficial to consumers. TAS must make sure that there is a level-playing field. It must take on the role of referee when there are any disputes or complaints of unfair practices. In so doing, it must not only be fair and impartial but be seen to be so.
At the end of the day, competition is not an end in itself but a means to creating more choices of high-quality and innovative services and products at competitive prices. The players should thus work towards expanding the market, which I believe, has tremendous room for growth, and introduce more and better service packages and products to attract new customers to enter the market. They should not just concentrate on wooing existing consumers.
These are exciting times for the industry, the consumers and also for regulators and policy makers. TAS must be vigilant and flexible. It must keep abreast of developments. If necessary, it must move to fine-tune or even change its policies to ensure sustainable and effective competition to maximise benefits for the consumers and the industry.
The experience that TAS will gain in managing the mobile communication competition will be invaluable as it prepares for the next milestone when we introduce nation-wide basic telecommunication service competition in the year 2000.
TAS Promotion Role
In its first five years as a statutory body, TAS has concentrated on liberalising the telecommunication industry to enhance Singapore's competitiveness. This is a very important role which TAS must continue to play. But there is now a need for TAS to move on to focus on its other equally important role - that of promoter and developer as we move into the information era where information and knowledge will be the engines of growth for the new economy.
The Government will play its part. We have initiated the Singapore ONE project to help achieve our IT 2000 vision and to build an intelligent island - a nation linked by an integrated network so that people can easily and speedily access information, transact business and communicate with one another and with the world.
Apart from serving as a catalyst to bring about new infrastructure, TAS must constantly review its own processes to enhance efficiency and to pass back savings to consumers. This morning, I announced that TAS will no longer collect radio licence fees for mobile telephones. This is savings of $50 per year for each mobile phone user, or a total of $23 million this year. By reducing cost to the consumer wherever possible, TAS can enhance its promoter role by enabling more people to have access to telecom services.
TAS can also foster the growth and efficiency of the telecommunication industry by promoting R & D in related technologies and supporting innovations in leading technologies. One such project is the recently completed TeleTech Park, a specially designed complex with state-of-the-art facilities to cater for R & D activities in high-tech telecommunications and information technology. Telecommunication and IT companies can plug into Singapore's advanced telecom infrastructure and services for testing their products and applications in a realistic market environment.
Development Grant Scheme
To further encourage the local telecommunication industry to upgrade their network infrastructure and enhance their technological capability, I am pleased to announce that TAS will launch a $100 million development grant scheme to share the cost of development projects with the telecommunication industry.
To qualify for the development grant, a project must meet one of two criteria. Firstly, it must foster the strategic development of info-communication and postal infrastructure and services and enhance the competitiveness of Singapore as a global and regional business hub. An example is the upgrading of the local access network by Singapore Telecom and Singapore Cable Vision in conjunction with the Singapore ONE project. Through this funding support, TAS expects Singapore Telecom and SCV to accelerate the roll out of the local access broadband infrastructure to support services such as high-speed Internet access, video or multimedia on demand through Singapore ONE.
Secondly, the project must enhance the capability, efficiency and quality of service of public telecommunication licensees and ultimately benefit consumers. An example of such a project is the development of an intelligent network system for number portability for mobile and fixed-line communications.
The TAS development grant will support projects that encourage technology transfer by foreign companies. It will promote collaboration between local info-communication companies and our universities and research institutes on strategic technologies which have good potential for commercial applications. The TAS development grant can also be used for non-technical areas which can enhance TAS and local companies' capabilities in managing or providing info-communication services through applied research. For example, TAS has earlier signed MOUs with the two local universities for R & D collaboration.
While TAS must maintain its focus on telecommunication infrastructure development, it must work closely with other agencies such as NSTB, NCB and EDB to minimise any overlap or duplication of efforts. Together, TAS can ensure that our telecommunication infrastructure and services remain world-class to help our businesses compete in an increasingly competitive world.
As we usher in this new era of competition in the telecommunication industry, let us not forget that this is only the start of a long but challenging journey ahead.
Once again, I congratulate the new players for their successful debut today. I wish all industry players fair winds and good speed as they tackle the challenges ahead. I also want to take this opportunity to express my thanks and appreciation to the TAS Board, the management and the staff, for their contributions in making this new era of telecommunications possible.
Here, I would like to specially mention some of our previous Board members who are here with us tonight. We are delighted to have you with us. I wish all of you an enjoyable evening.