Sports Hub's mobile woes sorted out

The telco-Consistel standoff that threatened to leave the Singapore Sports Hub without proper mobile services has finally ended.

SingTel, StarHub and M1 have signed deals with systems integrator Consistel to provide mobile coverage at the $1.33 billion facility, The Business Times has learnt.

"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 (at the Sports Hub) in June. M1, SingTel, StarHub and Consistel are working closely together to make this happen," the three operators and Consistel said in a joint response to BT's queries on Wednesday.

Philippe Collin Delavaud, CEO of SportsHub Pte Ltd - the group contracted to build and operate the facility - also told BT: "We are satisfied that Consistel and the mobile telecom operators have come together to provide mobile coverage for Sports Hub. This agreement will deliver a good customer and spectator experience."

Much of the arrangement between Consistel and the telcos is shrouded in confidentiality clauses. Even so, BT understands that agreements have been reached on the leasing fee that the mobile operators will have to pay for Consistel's equipment. These agreements are likely to have been negotiated one-on-one between each telco and Consistel.

The leasing fee was reportedly among the sticking points of the negotiations, which had dragged on since the middle of last year.

For its communications needs, the Sports Hub is using the "neutral hosting" model. Under this arrangement, Consistel builds and hosts the Sports Hub's wireless systems, including the 3G and 4G equipment in the facility. It then leases the use of the equipment to operators such as SingTel, StarHub and M1.

In January, however, it was reported that the telcos and Consistel could not agree on the leasing price. There was also disagreement over the service standards to be met.

By then, the situation had deteriorated to the point where the three operators were compelled to release a rare joint statement which said pointedly: "The deployment of mobile networks is a challenging process, especially if there are terms and conditions imposed by building owners which may create delays in implementation."

As soft-launch events at the Sports Hub loomed last month, the regulator, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), had to publicly intervene in January, urging the parties involved to work something out.

By March, the telcos and Consistel remained locked in discussions, even as IDA told them to roll out mobile services by the time the Sports Hub opens to the public in the middle of June.

Responding to the latest development of deals being reached, an IDA spokesman said: "IDA notes that the parties have agreed to work together to provide mobile coverage at the Sports Hub. IDA expects good mobile coverage to be provided by the first public event."

This article by The Business Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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