SINGAPORE: Local Internet service provider (ISP) MyRepublic and Australian telco TPG Telcom will go head-to-head to become Singapore's fourth mobile operator, after both were assessed to be a pre-qualified candidate for the New Entrant Spectrum Auction (NESA).
According to a press release by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) on Wednesday (Nov 16), airYotta did not meet the requirements for the spectrum auction. The three were the only parties which submitted their Expression of Interest documents to the regulator on Sep 1.
airYotta was led by former OMGTel executives such as CEO Michael DeNoma, who is the former chief executive officer of OMGTel, and airYotta CTO Philip Heah, who was formerly OMGTel's vice president for Networks and Infrastructure.
OMGTel's parent company, Consistel, had run afoul of IMDA regulations as recently as August. It was fined S$300,000 for breach of licence obligations in an "unprecedented" enforcement decision.
AUCTION EXPECTED TO START IN 2017
The NESA is the first phase to facilitate the entry of a possible fourth telco operator, and is only open to interested pre-qualified parties which do not currently operate a nationwide mobile network in Singapore. The second phase will consist of a general auction, which the new entrant will also be invited to take part in.
The general spectrum auction is expected to start in the first quarter of 2017, IMDA said.
In a statement, MyRepublic said the announcement is "truly exciting news" and brings it one step closer to being the fourth telco in Singapore.
"Since we announced our intention to be Singapore’s 4th mobile operator, more than 80,000 people have expressed their support. The response has been heartening and we remain committed to bringing Singapore a truly fixed-mobile converged offering, including generous data, seamless coverage and support for the massive potential of the Internet of Things (IoT)," the ISP said.
When contacted, a MyRepublic spokesperson said the company has the funds in place and "would not have gotten its pre-qualified candidate status if it did not". He, however, declined to reveal how much funds the company has managed to generate for the spectrum auction.
Earlier reports stated that the ISP had enlisted DBS Bank and Goldman Sachs to raise S$250 million in funds to roll out the mobile network.
Australian telco TPG Telecom, on the other hand, had been a surprise entrant to the race, having not indicated an interest until the Expression of Interest documents were submitted on Sep 1 this year. It looks to take on rival Optus' parent company, Singtel, on its home turf should it successfully bid for spectrum rights.
TPG Telecom said it is "very pleased" to have met the requirements of the auction. "Singapore is a great place for our company to invest with its highly skilled and educated population, innovative businesses and government with a near term objective of creating a Smart Nation. We value the opportunity very highly," a spokesperson said.
TPG Telecom added that it will have no difficulty funding their plans for Singapore as it is a "substantial corporation with significant cash flows".
"INSATIABLE" DEMAND FOR DATA?
In a press release, airYotta said that while it did not meet all of IMDA's requirements for the bid, the spectrum allocation process "demonstrated that Singaporeans, the industry and investors see the need for a more competitive industry, galvanised by the role a data-led telco could play in Singapore's future".
According to a study commissioned by airYotta, only one in three consumers were happy with current telco services and choices offered, "collectively signalling a turning point for the telco industry", it said.
"These results demonstrate that Singapore, like many other parts of the world, has reached a critical inflection point," said airYotta. "The demand for mobile data has become insatiable, leaving consumers with an unmet need for a provider that can make data more accessible and is positioned to meet the growing demand."