By awarding licenses for public cellular and paging services earlier this month, the Telecommunications Authority of Singapore joins the growing tide of countries sweeping the Asia-Pacific region to bring competition to telecommunications and liberalize the economy.
Coming out on top was MobileOne Pte Ltd., the consortium that captured the sole cellular license and one of three paging licenses tendered. London-based Cable & Wireless plc and Hongkong Telecom claim a 30 percent stake in MobileOne through their partner company, Great Eastern Telecommunications Ltd. Keppel Telecoms Pte Ltd.-a locally based diversified company-and Singapore Press Holdings Multimedia Pte Ltd. each hold a 35 percent stake. Cable & Wireless owns 57.5 percent of Hongkong Telecom.
Liberalizing the market, “will ensure that Singapore’s telecommunications industry remains strong and vibrant, and the needs of our consumers remain well served,” the government stated.
But plans to bring that competition to the marketplace won’t come quickly. The new wireless operators cannot launch commercial service until April 1, 1997-the date Singapore Telecom’s exclusive rights for these cellular and paging services expire. Cellular enjoys a penetration rate of nearly 9 percent, with 248,000 subscribers at the end of 1994, according to information from the U.S. Commerce Department.
Five entities bid for the cellular license and eight for the paging licenses. A committee of authority board members evaluated the applications based on a series of technical and nontechnical criteria. Technical requirements involved soundness of technical plans, proven technical expertise, efficient use of frequency spectrum and the type of technologically advanced services and features proposed, TAS said. Nontechnical considerations included the applicants’ commitment to investment in the proposed network and services, financial soundness, proven managerial expertise and the range and scope of service proposed.
Also, added TAS, the committee considered each bidder’s rollout plans and ability to develop a network speedily. Financial bids were reviewed, but were not a major factor in choosing winners, stated TAS.
The two other paging winners are consortia IntraPage Pte Ltd. and Singapore Technologies Paging Pte Ltd. Hutchison Telecommunications Ltd. holds the greatest interest in IntraPage, with 40 percent. Intraco Ltd. and Teledata Pte Ltd. each claim 30 percent.
Singapore Technologies retains majority ownership in Singapore Technologies Paging, with 60 percent, while Comfort Group Ltd. and BellSouth Worldwide Holdings each hold a 20 percent stake.
MobileOne’s cellular license is expected to be issued before the end of May. Cable & Wireless is a federation of telecommunications companies operating domestic and international wireless services in more than 50 countries and is involved in more mobile systems than any telecommunications company in the world. Cable & Wireless maintains an especially strong presence in the Asian region.