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IDA to Launch Consumer Education Programme on Start of Competition in Public Basic Telecommunication Services


The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) is launching a Consumer Education Programme, in preparation for the coming competition in the Public Basic Telecommunication Services (PBTS) market. Come 1 April 2000, another milestone will be set in the liberalisation of Singapore's...

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) is launching a Consumer Education Programme, in preparation for the coming competition in the Public Basic Telecommunication Services (PBTS) market. Come 1 April 2000, another milestone will be set in the liberalisation of Singapore's info-communication industry. On that day, a second Public Basic Telecommunication Services (PBTS) and third Public Cellular Mobile Telecommunication Services (PCMTS) operator will commence commercial operations. This means that consumers will have a choice of two fixed-line and three mobile phone operators.

The Consumer Education Programme aims to help consumers make informed decisions on the choices that will become available in the new competitive environment. It will comprise a series of briefings to community and business groups in January, island-wide mailing of an information booklet in the four official languages to all households in February, as well as features in the news dailies from March. There will also be a dedicated section on IDA's website with information pertaining to competition in the PBTS market. Hyperlinks to the operators' websites will be provided for ease of users' cross-referencing.

The briefings will involve grassroot leaders and self-help groups, as well as the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE). IDA will brief the groups on the choices available to consumers in a competitive multi-network, multi-operator telecommunication environment and also highlight the issues which consumers should take note when exercising their choices. IDA will also welcome feedback at these sessions. The information booklet will complement these sessions by highlighting key issues, the choices available and contact details of the operators.

"IDA decided to embark on this public education programme as it is important for all consumers to be aware of the benefits and choices available to them in a competitive environment, and the issues arising when exercising their choices," said Mr Leong Keng Thai, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Director-General (Telecoms) of IDA.

According to Mr Leong, such a public education programme was necessary as liberalisation of the fixed line services market would impact majority of Singapore's population. The programme will help consumers make informed choices according to their individual needs for telephony services.

From 1 April 2000, consumers will be able to choose SingTel and StarHub as their service providers for the following services:

Choice of Local Call Services

- Using services from either SingTel or StarHub

- Using services from both SingTel and StarHub

Choice of International Call Services

- Irrespective of which local call service operator consumers subscribe to, they can still choose to subscribe to either operator for international call services by pre-registering with the operators concerned.

- Consumers can also choose to have their international call services provided by the same operator they have chosen for local call services, or subscribe to the other or both operators for international call services.

As liberalisation brings about more innovative and competitive service packages and products, consumers should assess the different product offerings of operators and decide according to their individual needs. They should also be aware of the following:

- Barring of International Calls - As international call services will be offered by both operators with effect from 1 April 2000, consumers must inform both operators if they wish to bar the service. However, if the consumer has barred SingTel's international call services from the beginning, it is not necessary for the consumer to contact SingTel again.

- Barring of 1-900 Calls - Consumers must inform the operator they have chosen for local call services, if they wish to bar the 1-900 service.

- Internal Wiring - As is currently the practice in applying for a new or additional phone line, the operator's contractor will need to survey the consumer's home or office for wiring requirements. There may be some costs involved should rewiring be required. Any charges imposed here will be dependent on service charges of the operator concerned.

- Retaining Your Existing Telephone Number - Consumers can choose to retain their existing telephone numbers (home, office and mobile) regardless of the operator they choose. They should check with their chosen operator on charges imposed for keeping their existing numbers.

- Public Payphones - Consumers can continue to use public payphones for all local and international calls using SingTel phonecards at SingTel payphones and StarHub phonecards at StarHub payphones. Cash-cards and credit cards are also acceptable by the newer public payphones of both operators.

In addition, irrespective of which local call service operator a consumer chooses, the consumer will continue to receive a set of printed telephone directories for each telephone line subscribed, free of charge as with the current practice. The printed telephone directories will provide a full and integrated listing of all local telephone subscribers excluding ex-directory numbers. Each PBTS operator will offer its own '100' Operator Assisted Enquiry Service. For charges relating to this service, consumers are advised to check with their respective local call service operator.

We have worked closely with the operators to identify, as much as we can, various issues which consumers may have concerns with. These will be addressed in this programme. At the end of the day, consumers will have to contact the respective operators directly for details of the various service packages available and choose according to their individual needs," said Mr Leong.

Mr Leong stressed that, "Liberalisation will not be at the expense of service standards and quality. IDA has in place a set of minimum Quality of Services standards which operators have to comply with. This ensures that consumers will enjoy competitively-priced services without compromising quality of service."

IDA will continue to watch over market developments to ensure healthy, effective and sustainable competition. The end goal of liberalisation is to maximise consumers' benefits in terms of competitive pricing, wider choice, more innovative product and service packages, and higher quality of service.