S'pore issues first IPTV license

SingTel becomes first operator in the island-state to be awarded an IPTV license under a new licensing framework.
Written by Aaron Tan, Contributor

SINGAPORE--The Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) has unveiled a new two-tier license framework for the deployment of Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) services in the island-state.

In a statement Monday, the regulatory of the local media industry said two types of licenses will be offered to service providers. For the Nationwide Subscription TV License, industry players must provide services that reach over 100,000 subscribers. This license is similar to that issued to a mass-market pay TV operator.

The Niche Subscription TV License, on the other hand, will facilitate the entry of new niche players offering IPTV services which have a limited reach of fewer than 100,000 subscribers. These licensees would be subject to a "lighter" license framework, according to the MDA. Niche licensees, for example, will not be required to carry local free-to-air channels.

However, service providers with subscriber base that exceeds 100,000 can still qualify for a Niche Subscription TV License, if their service is offered mainly to specific non-residential locations in Singapore, among other license conditions.

The MDA said this exception is aimed at allowing players targeting niche market segments, such as the expatriate community and hotels, to grow their businesses.

With the new licensing framework in place, the authority hopes consumers can look forward to more and newer forms of diverse programming content, as more players enter the market to provide IPTV services to meet the different needs of both mass and niche audiences.

Industry players, the MDA said, will also benefit from the greater flexibility as the licensing framework "promotes a more conducive and business friendly environment". In addition, service providers can also take advantage of new technological trends and business models as they roll out IPTV services for different market segments.

Said Ling Pek Ling, the MDA's director of media policy: "We took into consideration the developments in technology in a rapidly-evolving media landscape, and local industry feedback when factoring flexibility in this license framework to address the needs of niche IPTV players, vis-à-vis mass market IPTV players, while ensuring that consumer interests are not compromised.

"This will enable the entry of more industry players looking to provide a wide range of IPTV services to consumers, including those who are currently not served or not well served by existing broadcasters," Ling said. "At the same time, consumers can look forward to richer and diversified content."

SingNet, a subsidiary of Singapore-based telco SingTel, is the first service provider to be issued with a Nationwide Subscription TV License.

Last week, SingTel unveiled a host of new IP-based triple-play services--dubbed Generation Mio--that are deployed via a network terminal device. The telco had indicated that it expects to add IPTV services to mio service packages in future though a launch date has not been committed.

According to analyst house Gartner, the number of IPTV subscribers worldwide is set to hit 48.8 million by 2010. However, the increase in subscriber base will come at the cost of price-cutting measures by operators in a bid to lure customers away from cable and satellite pay-TV rivals.

As such, Gartner expects global IPTV revenue to be less impressive compared to subscriber growth, rising "modestly" from US$872 million in 2006 to US$13.2 billion by 2010.

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