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Next-gen network small threat to incumbents

Allowing new service providers to offer high-availability broadband will not pose significant threat to existing operators in Singapore, according to analysts.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

Opening the Singapore market to new service providers offering high-bandwidth, high-availability connectivity, will mean incumbents are likely to suffer, but the extent will be minimal, said analysts.

Singapore's planned next-generation broadband network (NBN) will offer different grades of service levels to downstream service providers, lowering the barrier to entry for such providers to sell high-availability connectivity to enterprises. This competes directly with incumbents SingTel and StarHub, that already sell "Class A" tiered services to enterprises for use in bandwidth-hungry applications such as telepresence.

However, the new service providers' lack of a broad portfolio of other offerings will still make it difficult for them to put up a real threat.

Bryan Wang, connectivity research director, Asia-Pacific, Springboard, said with broadband connectivity "already a commodity", current players are differentiating several ways: branding, bundling other services and sales support.

"There will be very limited room for new players to be able to come in and play a significant role in the marketplace, as there will be very limited differentiation they can make.

"New players cannot do any bundling due to the lack of infrastructure, which makes their price and services less attractive to consumers," noted Wang.

In spite of the wholesale connectivity promised by the NBN to downstream providers, Wang does not expect a price war to occur because of the number of providers jostling for space in Singapore's small market.

Kenneth Liew, senior market analyst, communications research, IDC Asia-Pacific, told ZDNet Asia a portion of SingTel's revenue from leasing out connectivity is likely to decrease, as the market gets split up with the NBN.

But the extent of this decrease will be minimal, because SingTel is able to offer business broadband connectivity bundled with its High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) network, which retail service providers on the NBN do not have, he said.

This includes foreign operators that might be eyeing the NBN opportunity to enter the market, but do not have existing cellular broadband assets.

However, the NBN may level the playing field for competing telcos. Liew said currently, StarHub is only able to offer business broadband connectivity within the central business district. Once the NBN is up, StarHub will be able to offer island-wide connectivity, bundled with its mobile broadband services.

An Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) spokesperson said the NBN's "highly flexible suite of wholesale broadband connectivity" is expected to "spur greater vibrancy and competition at the services layer".

SingTel and StarHub responded to ZDNet Asia's enquiry, saying they currently provide Class A service levels to enterprises.

Lars Ronning, president, Tandberg Asia-Pacific, told ZDNet Asia the NBN's islandwide coverage will allow more videoconferencing to be set up outside of the office, and into homes.

"Service providers will be forced to up their game to be more cost and service conscious... Cost of bandwidth has always been the enemy of videoconferencing, so we see the planned NGN as a fantastic move forward for our business and the industry," said Ronning.

Michael See, regional director, Asean, Hong Kong and Taiwan at Polycom Asia-Pacific, said in an e-mail response the NBN will help improve the quality of offerings for telepresence vendors, such as higher call quality, security and uptime, as well as features and functions such as content sharing.

Polycom currently partners SingTel to provide connectivity to enterprise customers in Singapore.

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