Singapore telcos fined for inadequate 3G coverage

Singapore telcos fined for inadequate 3G coverage

Summary: [UPDATE] ICT regulator slaps S$10,000 fine on all three mobile operators in the country for failing to meet stricter quality of service standards, which it amended in January, to provide greater coverage around the island.

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SINGAPORE--ICT regulator Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) has imposed financial penalties on the country's three mobile operators--M1, SingTel and StarHub--for failing to comply with the stipulated quality of service (QoS) standards for 3G public cellular mobile services.

The regulator imposed a fine of S$10,000 (US$8,911.40) on each operator for non-compliance with the QoS standard to provide at least 99 percent service coverage under the Nationwide Outdoor Service Coverage indicator for the month of Sep. 2012. According to a media statement released Thursday, IDA said the QoS framework had been set to ensure consumers enyoyed a minimum acceptable level of service quality for key telecommmunication services.

The regulator in January 2012 had revised the frameworks for 3G mobile services with more stringent standards, increasing the indicators of outdoor service coverage and tunnel service coverage from 95 percent to 99 percent. After the new standards were implemented, IDA audited the networks of all three mobile operators from April 2012 to June 2012, and initiated a survey with all three in September.

It found that nationwide outdoor service coverage for all three mobile operators was below the QoS standard of at least 99 percent, even though they performed well in providing general mobile coverage. IDA added the operators' performances also were weaker at newly included testing areas such as housing estates or town centers, outdoor recreational areas, and MRT tracks above ground.

"The service quality of 3G mobile telephone services has become increasingly important with increased usage of mobile telephone services by consumers," Aileen Chia, deputy director-general of telecoms and post, said in the statement. "Mobile operators should strive to improve service quality for their customers."

Telcos question IDA's new methodology
The three telcos, however, questioned IDA's new methodology for coverage measurements and noted it might not reflect actual customer experience "accurately". In a joint statement released Thursday, they pointed out various obstacles experienced in adding base stations which would improve mobile coverage.

Operators would need to find suitable locations to add more base stations to their networks. However, it could take many months to locate a suitable location, sign the necessary agreements, and install a base station, the telcos said.

"Building owners and government agencies are important in allowing ease of access to locations and buildings for the installations and maintenance of our equipment, and ensure there is sufficient space to host their equipments," they said in the statement.

IDA in September also slapped SingTel with fines of S$380,000 (US$310,159) over several service outages which affected its fixed-line telephone and IPTV subscribers last year. SingTel was fined another S$400,000 (US$313,063) fine earlier in May for a 3G outage which occured on September 2011, after IDA found the operator in breach of the country's Service of Resiliency Code.

Following a new round of complaints from its subscribers, including one on Facebook which went viral, SingTel last month said it would be upgrading its 3G coverage in shopping malls across the city-state. Affecting 20 malls, the upgrades are expected to be completed by early-2013, the telco said.

Topics: Telcos, Government Asia, Mobility, Singapore

Ellyne Phneah

About Ellyne Phneah

Elly grew up on the adrenaline of crime fiction and it spurred her interest in cybercrime, privacy and the terror on the dark side of IT. At ZDNet Asia, she has made it her mission to warn readers of upcoming security threats, while also covering other tech issues.

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