Mobile deal reached for Sports Hub

When the Sports Hub makes its grand debut with global events next month, spectators will not have to worry about being unable to tweet their pictures of a rugby touchdown or celebrities such as Taiwanese singer Jay Chou.

This embarrassing scenario had seemed like a possibility after telcos SingTel, StarHub and M1 could not agree for months on a deal with systems integrator Consistel, which threatened to leave the national sports complex without any mobile coverage.

But the four parties have since reached agreement to roll out mobile services at the 35ha complex.

"The priority is to ensure that our customers will be able to enjoy mobile coverage by the time the first major public event is held there in June," they said.

The breakthrough was first reported in The Business Times yesterday.

The wrangle arose as the telcos could not agree on the equipment rental fees that they have to pay provider Consistel.

In the first such arrangement here, the $1.33 billion Sports Hub had commissioned Consistel to build and host all its wireless systems, including 3G and 4G equipment. Consistel then leases the use of this equipment to the mobile operators.

The stalemate got so bad that the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) stepped in - once in January and again in March.

It is unclear what the telcos and Consistel have finally agreed on, as the terms are confidential. But The Straits Times understands that the contract tenure - which can stretch up to 21 years - and the leasing price have come down since the parties locked horns over price.

The deadlock was first reported by The Straits Times in January. The IDA clarified then that while exclusive arrangements are allowed, they do not "exempt" building owners or developers from giving other telecoms licensees access to their premises.

In March, the IDA even directed SingTel, StarHub and M1 to roll out mobile services at the Sports Hub by the middle of next month when the building would be completed. An IDA spokesman said yesterday it expects "good mobile coverage" by the first public event next month.

Consumers were relieved to learn of the breakthrough.

Copywriter Lee Teen Yen, 40, said: "This is the world-class Sports Hub. I will be very angry if I cannot get to post updates of exciting moments of my Jay Chou concert on Facebook."

The first major sporting event at the 55,000-seater National Stadium at the Sports Hub is the World Club 10s rugby tournament on June 21 and 22.

"It will be a blow to our nation's reputation if spectators cannot tweet or upload pictures of an event on Facebook," said businessman Harry Chew, 44.

This article was published on May 9 in The Straits Times.

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