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Ushering in a new face of mobile competition

last updated 24 April 2017

Consumers can expect better service as new telco TPG readies itself for battle in Singapore following the conclusion of the General Spectrum Auction.

20170424 GSA story

Consumers to benefit from TPG Telcom's foray into Singapore's telco service sector. 

By Francis Kan

The impending entry of Australia's TPG Telecom as Singapore's fourth telecommunications service provider is expected to shake up a sector that has not seen a new entrant since 2000.

Back then, StarHub was the new kid on the block that turned the competitive landscape on its head when it pioneered mobile features such as free incoming calls, per-second billing and free IDD calls to selected destinations. The telco was also the first to offer an unlimited residential broadband internet access service in Singapore.

Similar service innovations were also seen in telecoms sectors of developed markets like South Korea and Hong Kong when new players joined the fray.

In December 2016, TPG became Singapore's newest mobile-network operator when it beat MyRepublic in the New Entrant Spectrum Auction (NESA) with a bid of S$105 million.

The company also spent S$23.8 million for 10MHz of spectrum in the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)'s General Spectrum Auction on 4 April. Singtel was awarded the largest amount of spectrum at 75MHz, which cost them $563.7 million, while StarHub secured 60MHz of spectrum at $349.6 million and M1 secured 30MHz of spectrum at $208 million.  

Market watchers were quick to point out that while competition for the spectrum was fierce, this is not expected to translate into higher costs for consumers in the face of heightened competition.

Analysts also agreed that TPG's entry would be a boon for consumers. "I think that the introduction of a fourth telco has kicked the market out of complacency... the winner will be customers like you and me, who will now receive a lot more attention from existing providers, as well as TPG," said Clement Teo, principal analyst at Ovum.

For an idea of what might be in store for consumers, TPG in Australia offers SIM-only mobile plans with no lock-in period, such as one for A$39.99 (S$42) a month for 10GB of data, plus unlimited calls and SMS. A comparable plan from Singtel costs around S$78.85 a month.

A smooth end to 2G

Some of the spectrum from IMDA's auction on 4 April included portions re-farmed from those used to provide 2G services, which was progressively shut down in stages starting 1 April.

The cessation of the 2G network has gone smoothly by most accounts, especially for migrant workers and seniors who are among the largest group of users for the service.

The Migrant Workers’ Centre Chairman Yeo Guat Kwang told TODAY newspaper in mid-April that most have migrated to the 3G network before the 2G network was ceased.

He added that a large number of the remaining 2G users mostly held a dual-SIM smartphone that will allow them to have mobile access even after the 2G network shuts down permanently.

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