Mr Chiang Chie Foo, Chairman Telecommunication Authority of Singapore (TAS) Opening Address - Award Ceremony for Licences to the Successful PBTS & PCMTS Tenderers

Mr Chiang Chie Foo, Chairman
Telecommunication Authority of Singapore (TAS)
Opening Address - Award Ceremony for Licences to the Successful PBTS & PCMTS Tenderers
Singapore, 5 May 1998

Mr Mah Bow Tan, Minister for Communications,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. A warm welcome to all of you to this ceremony to award the licences to the successful Public Basic Telecommunication Services (PBTS) and the Public Cellular Mobile Telephone Services (PCMTS) tenderers.

2. We live in an era when the telecommunication industry is moving at a tremendous pace and with great dynamism. News on telecommunication and emerging info-communication markets, be it on service innovations, R&D breakthroughs, technological advances, network development and major strategic alliances never fails to attract media attention and the public's eye.

3. Much attention is given to news of this nature primarily because both consumers and businesses are increasingly aware of the importance and their reliance on info-communications. High-speed Internet, multimedia applications, interactive services, secured electronic transactions and other value-added features are fast augmenting and redefining the way people live and how companies operate.

4. Many info-communication services like electronic mail, electronic file transfer and Internet's World Wide Web have become part and parcel of the way people communicate and exchange information. Other info-communication applications such as teleworking, telemedicine, distance-learning and electronic commerce offer many tangible and potential benefits, capturing the imagination of individual consumers and businesses.

5. It is undeniable that both the government and businesses must keep track and respond to the developments. In particular, the Telecommunication Authority of Singapore (TAS) must keep pace with the dynamic telecommunication industry and the ever-changing international telecommunication landscape. In response, TAS has embarked on a phased liberalisation of the telecommunication industry in Singapore. When the Government first corporatised SingTel, the intention was to manage the liberalisation process over a 15-year time-frame for the fixed-line services, and 5 years for the mobile phone services. As it turned out, the pace of technology changes and development in the industry world-wide has made it sensible for the liberalisation process to be compressed. Instead of liberalising the industry by 2007,we will be having facilities based competition for the fixed-line services by 2000, and further liberalisation, both facilities and services-based, by 2002. There will also be further mobile phone service liberali
sation from 2000.

6. I was in London recently. UK is now considered as the most liberalised country in telecommunications in Europe. In my conversation with UK telecommunication policy officers, I get the sense that if they were to do it all over again, they would have been more aggressive in their liberalisation process. We are now going through what they have gone through over the last 15 years or so, but in a much more compressed time-frame. We are on the right track. The challenge for TAS is to be able to manage this compressed process well.

7. With liberalisation, it is extremely important that all public telecommunication licensees are given the opportunity to operate on a level playing field. Private operators entering the telecommunication market, or for that matter, any market, are naturally driven by profits and revenue. We would not want operators to, in their zeal to maximise profits, adopt anti-competitive positions and practices. TAS, as the regulator therefore has the role to safeguard against unfair practices and anti-competitive behaviours which are detrimental to both consumers and the industry at large.

8. Today, we take a major step forward as we award the licences for facilities-based competition for fixed-line services and additional competition for mobile phone services. TAS will have to ensure that it is successfully introduced. This is because a further viable liberalisation of enhanced value-added service-based competition in 2002 depends critically on the timely network rollout and service deployment by the new licensee.

9. The Tender Evaluation Committee and staff in TAS have been kept busy over the past 3 to 4 months on the tender evaluation. I would like to extend my appreciation to them for their hard work and efforts. But for TAS staff, their work does not stop here. I am sure they will continue to work hard to meet the challenges of further developing the telecommunication industry as well as continuously reviewing and updating the regulatory framework to ensure fair and sustainable competition.

10. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate StarHub for having won the two licences to become the new telecommunication operator to provide basic and mobile phone services, come year 2000. We look forward to your contribution to the vibrancy of the telecommunication industry in Singapore.