TPG applies to take part in Singapore mobile spectrum auction

TPG has submitted an EOI to prequalify for the auction of 900MHz and 2.3GHz spectrum bands in the Singapore mobile market.

Australian fixed-line telecommunications provider TPG has announced submitting an expression of interest for prequalification for Singapore's mobile spectrum auction, in hopes of becoming the fourth mobile operator in Singapore.

The spectrum auction, being held by the Singaporean Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), will see 900MHz and 2.3GHz spectrum made available to approved new entrant bidders.

"The auction represents an opportunity to establish innovative and exciting mobile telecommunications products which will support Singapore's evolving Smart Nation capabilities," TPG said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) on Friday.

"TPG notes the very positive step taken by the IDA to encourage a fourth entrant by making a substantial portion of spectrum available for sale to new entrants only."

TPG will be made aware of whether it successfully prequalified for the auction later this year.

The IDA in February confirmed that it would be allowing the possibility for a fourth mobile entrant in the Singaporean market by April 2017 in order to increase competition.

The spectrum auction will be held in two phases: The first, to take place in Q3 this year, is open only to bidders that do not currently operate a nationwide mobile network in Singapore; and the second is open to Singapore's existing mobile providers Singtel, M1, and StarHub.

The two-phase process will release fresh spectrum to support a new mobile network operator, as well as enabling existing telcos to augment their mobile service offerings.

It was previously noted that the potential winner of the first phase would have to pay around SG$35 million, which was discounted from the previously proposed SG$40 million reserve price due to a change in the spectrum bundle being offered.

The new entrant phase [PDF] will allow approved bidders to purchase two 6x 5MHz lots in the 900MHz band and one of the 8x 5MHz lots in the 2.3GHz band.

Bidders in the second phase will be allowed to purchase at least 2x 5MHz spectrum in the 900MHz band for SG$20 million per lot. Existing mobile telcos will be permitted to acquire one or more of the nine 2x 5MHz lots in the 700MHz spectrum band; one or more of the six 2x 5MHz lots in the 900MHz spectrum band; one or more of the 8x 5MHz lots in the 2.3GHz spectrum band; and one or more of the 9x 5MHz lots in the 2.5GHz spectrum band.

The 900MHz spectrum band will "ensure continuity of 3G services", the IDA said, while the 5GHz spectrum in the 2.3GHz and 2.5GHz TDD band will offer better coverage for urban areas and in-building penetration and facilitate high-data, high-speed mobile networks.

A possible fourth mobile provider would be given until October 2018 to deploy nationwide outdoor coverage, the IDA had previously said, along with road tunnel and in-building coverage by October 2019 and coverage at underground MRT stations and lines by October 2021.

The last spectrum auction, held in 2013, failed to attract a fourth mobile operator.

Last month, TPG denied reports that it is considering entering the New Zealand mobile market via an acquisition of New Zealand's third-largest mobile telco 2degrees.

TPG has been focused on expansion of late, having acquired rival Australian telco iiNet for around AU$1.5 billion last year and following that up with a deal with Vodafone Australia to make use of the latter's mobile network across the country.

TPG is due to present its FY16 results this month, with the telco expecting EBITDA of between AU$770 million and AU$775 million for the full year. For the half year ended January 31, 2016, it saw a net profit of AU$162.3 million, a 36 percent year-on-year rise from the AU$119.2 million reported for the first half of FY15.

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