StarHub looks to increase enterprise AI

StarHub has reported revenue of SG$2.4 billion and net profit of SG$249.6 million for the full year, with only its enterprise fixed business growing as pay TV, mobile, and broadband all declined.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

StarHub has continued leaning on its enterprise fixed arm to grow its overall revenues, with CEO Tan Tong Hai saying the Singaporean telecommunications provider will be adding more artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities this year.

"Our enterprise fixed business plays a key role, and it has registered a strong finish to the year with a second consecutive quarter of double-digit revenue growth. The strategy we have executed for our growth, such as our acquisitions of Accel and D'Crypt, is yielding results for us," Tan said.

"In 2018, we will be taking our customer-centric approach a step further by adopting a higher level of artificial intelligence to anticipate our customers' needs and recommend new services to them."

According to the chief executive, the AI additions will complement StarHub's acquisition of Accel Systems and Technologies for SG$26.22 million during 2017.

StarHub had in May acquired a 51 percent controlling stake in Accel for SG$19.38 million, and confirmed in July that it would acquire the remainder of the company in two stages: 29.4 percent in phase 2 in July, and 19.6 percent in phase 3, which will take place by the first quarter of 2020.

"Accel's cybersecurity solutions complement our network-based capabilities, making us well placed to compete in major government and commercial cybersecurity tenders," the CEO said at the time.

"This acquisition further demonstrates our confidence in growing the enterprise business as we execute on our growth strategy."

StarHub's purchase was aimed at boosting its cybersecurity offerings in order to sell a "full spectrum" of cybersecurity products and services, as well as augmenting the research and development capacity of its Cyber Security Centre of Excellence.

Tan's statements on Thursday followed StarHub again attributing its slight rise in revenue -- from SG$2.396 billion in FY16 to SG$2.4 billion in FY17 -- to higher revenues from its enterprise fixed business segment.

Revenue slid in all segments apart from enterprise fixed, where it rose from SG$400 million in FY16 to SG$436.9 million in FY17. Of this, data and internet brought in SG$390.7 million, up from SG$347.2 million thanks to the success of its managed services and cybersecurity solutions; while voice services brought in SG$46.2 million, down from SG$52.8 million.

Sale of equipment also brought in additional revenue during the year, rising from SG$187.5 million in FY16 to SG$204 million in FY17.

For the full year, StarHub reported a net profit of SG$249.6 million, down by 26.9 percent from SG$341.4 million, and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) SG$613.9 million, down 11 percent from SG$690.1 million.

The drop-off in earnings and profit were attributed to "one-off provisions made for certain staff benefits to rationalise and retain talent in recognition of the business challenges and operating conditions", as well as a leasing agreement for its cable network, with StarHub arguing that considering the rise in IPTV via fibre broadband, it should make this money back.

StarHub lost around 40,000 pay TV customers during the year, from 498,000 down to 458,000 as of December 31, with average revenue per user (ARPU) remaining the same, at SG$51 per month. Revenue from pay TV was consequently down by 7.6 percent to SG$348.9 million.

Its mobile segment declined by 1.5 percent to bring in SG$1.196 billion revenue. Total mobile customers remained the same, at approximately 2.307 million, thanks to losing 19,000 post-paid customers and gaining 18,000 prepaid customers during the year.

Post-paid ARPU dropped by SG$1 year on year to SG$15.

Lastly, StarHub's broadband arm remained relatively stable, falling by just 1.3 percent to contribute SG$214 million in revenue. Broadband also lost customers, down from 473,000 last year to 467,000 this year at an ARPU of SG$37 per month.

However, fibre broadband customers grew from 363,000 to 381,000 during the year.

The telco's spending was slightly up during the year due to its purchase of 4G spectrum to improve its network, having bought 3x 10MHz in the 700MHz band, 1x 10MHz in the 900MHz band, and 4x 5MHz in the 2.5GHz band for SG$349.6 million.

StarHub also spend the year trialling 5G, with tests alongside Huawei in January 2017 attaining speeds of 35.15Gbps using millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum as well as 64 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM).

StarHub in August announced a half-year net profit of SG$159 million, down 20.9 percent year on year.

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