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Award Ceremony for Mobile Phone & Paging Licences

Mr Mah Bow Tan, Minister for Communications Speech - Award Ceremony for Mobile Phone & Paging Licences

Mr Mah Bow Tan, Minister for Communications
Speech - Award Ceremony for Mobile Phone & Paging Licences
Singapore, 24 May 1995

Telecommunications plays a key role in making Singapore a good place to live and to do business in. The Government recognises this and remains firmly committed to the task of enhancing Singapore's position as a telecommunication hub and strengthening our role as a total business centre in the region. We must aim to provide an attractive variety of telecommunication services at competitive prices so that we can continue to attract more companies to use Singapore as a base for their business enterprises, be they in the field of finance, manufacturing, broadcasting, trading, or transport & logistics.

We do so by harnessing two important forces - namely, the force of technological advancement and the force of the free market.

Technology has advanced at breath-taking speed in recent years spawning new products and services which in turn create new ways of doing business. For example, Internet which started as a communications tool for scientists and academics has been discovered by businessmen who will turn Internet into a global "marketplace", a place where companies parade their products, and consumers browse and buy. The Telecommunication Authority of Singapore (TAS) must constantly keep track of developments such as these, and formulate its policies to ensure that Singaporeans are right at the forefront of these developments so that we may benefit from them.

TAS must also remain committed to the free market, and the belief that giving market forces free reign, as far as possible, is the best way to ensure a greater variety of services at competitive prices. TAS has embarked on a liberalisation process, starting with the freeing up of the telecommunication equipment market in 1989. Some key liberalisation moves since then include: allowing the use of VSATs (Very Small Aperture Terminals) for intra-corporate use, introducing competition in the provision of uplink/downlink services for broadcasting, and the introduction of more Internet public access providers.

Today's ceremony is another step in the liberalisation process. It marks the most significant liberalisation of Singapore's telecommunication industry so far. From 1 April 1997, Singaporeans will be able to choose from two public cellular phone operators, and four public paging service providers.

With more cellular phone and paging operators entering the market, consumers can look forward to more new services at attractive prices. Some of these services may include more specific billing, a wider range of information service via paging, and more sophisticated call screening services.

As Singapore's telecommunication industry evolves and more operators enter the market, TAS's role as regulator, as well as the promoter of the industry, will become more challenging.

As regulator, TAS must ensure that the liberalisation process continues at a pace which is as fast as the market can bear. It must explore areas of Singapore's telecommunication market which can be further liberalised. At the same time, TAS must also ensure a level playing field for all operators in the market. It will do so by setting the ground rules for the industry to pre-empt anti-competitive behaviour. This includes setting the principles of interconnection and access charges, requiring accounting separation, as well as acting as an arbiter of last resort.

At the same time, it must also look after the consumer's interest by ensuring that service quality is not compromised in competitive environment. TAS will do so by requiring all operators to conform to a set of minimum service standards.

As a promoter of the industry, TAS must ensure that Singapore stays in the forefront of technology and maintains its competitive position in the global business environment. TAS, together with NSTB and NCB, is studying how Singapore can develop its network to support future broadband multimedia applications covering a wide spectrum of sophisticated video, data and voice services. One of the possibilities the study team will explore is to implement an interactive broadband multimedia trial in Singapore with real-life applications that will link decentralised town centres to Government agencies to provide general public services. Such a trial could pave the way for improved public services.

With a broadband network, Singaporeans seeking advice from any Government office would be able to conduct an interactive discussion with Government officials through the use of voice, video and data exchange. Both the customer and the Government official would be able to view the same forms and figures, and possibly exchange written information as they communicate form their respective locations. A trial broadband network would be an excellent testbed for such new and innovative applications and services to better serve the public.

We can look forward to an exciting yet challenging time ahead for the telecommunication industry in Singapore. The entry of major new players in the industry should result in a stronger industry, with potential benefits for all. But the ultimate beneficiaries of new and improved mobile phone and paging services will be the people of Singapore.

In closing, I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations to IntraPage, ST Paging and MobileOne for having won the licences - you will no doubt have a challenging task ahead of you as you prepare to commence operations in April 1997. I wish you every success.