Plans to ease in fourth Singapore mobile operator underway

SINGAPORE - Consumers here may soon have more choices as Singapore's telecommunications regulator is looking to ease in a fourth mobile operator here.

Through a public consultation launched on Tuesday, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) is sussing out interest from potential entrants to roll out mobile services.

One way for a new mobile operator to start up here is to buy airtime in bulk from existing operators.

Mobile operators who buy airtime in bulk instead of building physical mobile networks are known as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).

That was the model Richard Branson's Virgin Group adopted when it launched Virgin Mobile in Singapore in 2001. But the outfit closed down barely a year into operations citing weak market conditions.

IDA wants to consult the public on what legislations can be introduced to allow more MVNOs to operate here, including a possible fourth mobile operator.

The authority wants to "inject more competition in the mobile market, which could lead to lower prices and more innovative services," said a spokesman. "Niche markets could also be better served."

To date, there are about six small MVNOs in Singapore serving niche markets. None of them are considered mobile operators as they do not offer mobile services to the masses.

Together, MVNOs currently account for less than 1 per cent of the total customer base here, or 80,000 customers.

This article was published on April 22 in The Straits Times.

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