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Singapore fiber operator keen to be fourth telco

Two-year-old startup MyRepublic is looking to become the country's fourth mobile operator, arguing that consumers are still "underserved" in a mobile market that needs more competition.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

The needs of mobile consumers in Singapore are still not fully addressed and the market needs more competition to deliver more value to customers. 

In fact, the introduction of a fourth operator in the country would help ensure innovation and better user experience, argued MyRepublic in its proposal to ICT regulator, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA). There are currently three mobile operators serving the local market: M1, SingTel, and StarHub. 

Established in 2011, MyRepublic offers fiber services in Singapore and more recently in New Zealand. Earlier this year, it launched a 1Gbps service plan at S$49.99 in Singapore, where it is estimated to have a 3 percent share of the fiber broadband market

It is now looking to become the country's fourth mobile operator, but certain market conditions must first be in place to ensure its viability, MyRepublic said, noting that any new player will need "regulatory support and backing" to succeed.

Among these, a suitable combination of radio spectrum is required to facilitate nationwide coverage as well as capacity. In its proposal, the fiber operator suggested that IDA allocates at least 20MHz of sub-1 GHz spectrum and 100MHz of 2.3GHz or 2.6GHz.

If given sufficient spectrum, a fourth operator could potentially offer unlimited data mobile plans, MyRepublic said. 

A regulated national roaming agreement also would be necessary to support a gradual market entry, since a new entrant will require at least three years to build out its network and be on par with the coverage level of current service providers. MyRepublic added that indoor quality of service requirements also should be relaxed for the initial three years. 

There also needs to be site-sharing access at regulated prices to ensure the new entrant will be able to deploy base stations and backhaul equipment without resistance. "We are concerned that if word gets out of a fourth operator, existing operators will work to take up roof-top space to squeeze out new the new operator," it noted. 

MyRepublic CEO Malcolm Rodrigues told local media the company had estimated a first-year budget of S$250 million to S$300 million would be sufficient to become a fourth player in the market, though, this would depend on how much it would cost to acquire a license. 

Rodrigues said it would be ready to roll out mobile services between six and nine months once spectrum rights are allocated and its financial resources are sorted out. 

"MyRepublic would definitely be interested in being that fourth operator in Singapore. Our vision for mobile access is simple — providing affordable, best quality of experience access to the cloud, from anywhere," it said. "Access to the cloud from our mobile devices can't be choked by costly Byte fees."

The Singapore startup said mobile consumers today are paying S$39.99 a month for 2GB of mobile data, which is insufficient to allow users to fully embrace cloud services. Citing stats from IDA, it noted that mobile traffic is expected to grow between 40 percent and 70 percent over the next few years, with consumers requiring more than 10GB of data per month to better tap cloud computing. At today's rate, it would cost Singapore consumers a whopping S$200 to consume 10GB of data, it said. 

If awarded the fourth license, MyRepublic said it would introduce unlimited voice and messaging service and data-sharing across family members, as well as evaluate the potential of offering unlimited mobile data bundles. It stopped just short of committing to do so, noting that this would depend on whether it can secure enough spectrum to support this vision. 

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