IDA allocates additional 4G to Singapore’s ‘Big Three’

1 Jul 2013

National telecoms regulator the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) has allocated additional radio frequencies to the city-state’s ‘Big Three’ mobile operators – SingTel Mobile, StarHub and M1 Limited (M1) – enabling them to use spectrum in the 1800MHz and 2500MHz bands. In total, the three firms paid SGD360 million (USD284.2 million) for the spectrum, which gives them more capacity to deploy Long Term Evolution (LTE) services to meet pent up demand from millions of Singaporeans. The outcome is, however, a blow to the watchdog which had originally intended to auction off a total of up to 320MHz of bandwidth, ring-fencing at least 40MHz for new market entrants.

In the event though, the three incumbent carriers were the only firms to put forward the requisite reserve bids for the 270MHz of spectrum left on offer. The 4G licences are valid from 2015 to 2030 and are being sold off as the current rights – originally sold in 2005 and 2007 – are due to expire in the next few years. As per the terms and conditions of the awards, SingTel, StarHub and M1 will be required to provide nationwide street-level coverage for LTE by June 2016, and must provide signal coverage of subway stations and lines, and road tunnels, by June 2018. SingTel Mobile obtained 100MHz of spectrum at a total price of SGD136 million, StarHub purchased 90MHz of spectrum at a total price of SGD120 million, and M1 bought 80MHz of spectrum at a total price of SGD104 million.

Commenting on the awards, IDA deputy chief executive, Mr Leong Keng Thai, said: ‘The successful allocation of spectrum in the auction will give operators more long-term certainty on their spectrum holdings as they continue to deploy 4G services. This will enable the industry to better meet the demands of growing mobile traffic, and ensure that consumers can reap the benefits of quality 4G mobile services well into the future.’

The three cellcos were each awarded four lots of spectrum in the 2500MHz band, while SingTel Mobile emerged as the biggest single beneficiary of more favoured 1800MHz spectrum – which provides for better coverage – winning six blocks, compared to StarHub (five) and M1 (four). The full allocation of spectrum is as follows:

M1 Limited

40MHz (four lots of 1800MHz spectrum) @ SGD16 million per lot

40MHz (four lots of 2500MHz spectrum) @SGD10 million per lot

SingTel Mobile

60MHz (four lots of 1800MHz spectrum) @ SGD16 million per lot

40MHz (four lots of 2500MHz spectrum) @SGD10 million per lot

StarHub

50MHz (four lots of 1800MHz spectrum) @ SGD16 million per lot

40MHz (four lots of 2500MHz spectrum) @SGD10 million per lot.

Singapore, M1 Limited (M1), StarHub