StarHub loses 28,000 customers across mobile, pay TV

While StarHub gained 5,000 post-paid mobile and 7,000 fibre broadband customers in Q1, it lost 22,000 prepaid mobile, 11,000 pay TV, and 3,000 residential broadband customers.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Singaporean telecommunications provider StarHub has again reported a reduction across its customer base, with 17,000 customers lost during the quarter ending March 31 in mobile and 11,000 in pay TV.

The telecommunications carrier's post-paid mobile customers now number 1.399 million, up by 5,000 customers since last quarter, but its prepaid mobile customers total 898,000 after losing 22,000 during the quarter.

StarHub managed to offset its 3,000 customers lost in residential broadband over the quarter by gaining 7,000 fibre broadband customers, however.

With average revenue per user (ARPU) across all segments remaining the same, or dropping by SG$3 per month in the case of post-paid mobile, StarHub consequently reported a drop in net profit and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA).

StarHub's net profit was SG$73.1 million, down 21.3 percent year on year, while EBITDA was SG$160.7 million, down 12.4 percent from the SG$183.4 million reported for the same period a year ago.

Revenue remained stagnant, at SG$590.9 million, with the company making SG$296.2 million from mobile, SG$1.9 million less than the same quarter a year ago; SG$88.4 million from pay TV, SG$6.5 million less; and SG$53.7 million from broadband, up SG$0.2 million.

StarHub CEO Tan Tong Hai said the spectrum StarHub purchased during the auction last month will allow the telco to expand its mobile coverage and customer base in future.

"We have made the necessary investments in the recent spectrum auction to continue delivering quality mobile services to our increasing mobile base. The acquired spectrum will also facilitate our roadmap towards 5G," Tan said.

StarHub spent SG$349.6 million to acquire 3x 10MHz in the 700MHz spectrum band, 1x 10MHz in the 900MHz band, and 4x 5MHz in the 2.5GHz band in April.

StarHub will soon also be facing increased competition from Australian telecommunications provider TPG, however, which spent SG$128.8 million on spectrum to build out Singapore's fourth mobile network.

With enterprise fixed the only business making a significant gain during the first quarter of the year, contributing SG$98.7 million in revenue, which was SG$2.9 million more than Q1 last year, Tan said StarHub is focusing on expanding this segment.

"Driving growth in the enterprise business remains our priority, and we are on track to introduce new cybersecurity, IoT, and smart retail solutions to the market," the chief executive said.

"We will grow our enterprise digital services offerings."

During the quarter, StarHub revealed to ZDNet that it attained speeds of 35.15Gbps during a trial of 5G network technology with Chinese technology giant Huawei.

The field trial was conducted using 2GHz of spectrum in the e-band -- which sits between the 60GHz and 90GHz frequencies -- and using 64 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM).

Back in November, StarHub and Nokia also attained speeds of 4.3Gbps and latency of 1ms during a 5G trial over centimetre-wave (cmWave) frequency between the 3GHz and 30GHz bands using the Nokia AirScale platform.

These 5G trials followed StarHub and Nokia's demonstration of 600Mbps data transmission speeds over 4G using 4x4 Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (4x4 MIMO) and carrier aggregation in May, as well as announcing a showcase of 1Gbps indoor 4G coverage in conjunction with Huawei in April, which combined 55MHz across the 1800MHz, 2100MHz, and 2600MHz spectrum bands.

StarHub also trialled network technology in July for the purposes of upgrading its 4G network in partnership with Nokia to triple peak upload speeds to 150Mbps using 64 QAM and aggregating spectrum in the 1800MHz and 2600MHz bands, with the aim of commercially launching such a 4G upgrade in Marina Bay and Orchard Road in December 2016.

StarHub has also signed up to adopt Mobile Connect a GSMA standard that creates a single digital user identity, matching users' mobile phone numbers to their personal identity without the need for usernames and passwords.

"We believe the traditional norms of managing multiple usernames and passwords will soon become history," Tan said at the time.

StarHub in February reported a full-year net profit of SG$341 million, down 8 percent year on year due to decreases in revenue across its mobile and pay TV segments. Revenue for the 2016 calendar year was SG$2.397 billion, down by 2 percent, while EBITDA was SG$690 million, down 3 percent.

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