Singapore’s telecoms regulator has proposed setting aside 60MHz out of a total of 225MHz of new spectrum at a lower reserve price in a separate auction to be open only to new entrants.
The structure of the next spectrum auction is intended to attract a newcomer to the Singapore mobile market, which currently has three mobile network operators (MNOs).
The 60MHz allocation will include 2 x 10MHz in the 700MHz band, 2 x 10MHz in the 900MHz band and 20MHz in the 2.3GHz band. Understanding the huge capex required to launch a network, the IDA aims to lower the barrier to entry by setting the reserve price at SDG40 million ($29.5 million) for the entire block.
It said that to qualify a potential bidder can’t have rolled out a nationwide mobile network and can’t be an associate of an incumbent.
This won’t be the first time IDA has set aside spectrum to facilitate the entry of a new player. Similar measures were adopted for its 4G spectrum auction in 2013, but a fourth operator didn’t step forward to bid in the auction.
While IDA aims to introduce measures to attract a new MNO, it said it also plans to ease entry conditions for MVNOs. But it does not intend to impose additional measures suggested by some for new obligations on site access or RAN sharing on the incumbent MNOs, since it noted there are already regulatory frameworks in place.
Liberty Wireless director Adeel Najam told Mobile World Live that it welcomes IDA’s view that there may be scope for greater competition and service innovation in the market. The company plans to soon launch an MVNO in Singapore under the Circles Asia brand.
Reducing the barriers
While setting aside spectrum for a potential fourth entrant is something IDA has done in the past, Liberty’s Najam noted there is a larger amount of spectrum set aside this time in the bands that would achieve some capex efficiency.
He added, however, that certain conditions that would significantly decrease the barriers to entry, like mandated national roaming, have not been included in the proposal.
“IDA’s proposal validates our entry in the market as a ‘thick’ MVNO focusing on the intelligent network layer and in offering product and service innovation to mainstream consumers,” he said.
IDA said in its report that “thick” MVNOs, which would have more control over their operations, customer databases and services, can bring about innovative or niche services to benefit consumers on a larger scale and can compete in a more sustainable manner.
Najam said IDA’s proposal to set up “negotiation principles” between MNOs and thick MVNOs provides a basis for long-term sustainability in the market for MVNO players.
Strong industry response
After issuing a 39-page response to its first public consultation, which was launched in April 2014, the IDA yesterday opened a second consultation to address issues raised in the comments sent by 20 companies. These firms included Asia Broadcast Satellite, Inmarsat, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Walt Disney, MyRepublic and the country’s three mobile operators.
IDA said in a statement that the issues include the technical considerations for the allocation of a number of spectrum bands and the proposed facilitation framework for new entrants.
An economic study by IDA found that a new MNO may potentially bring about net long-term benefits that are driven by price decreases, as well as non-price improvements in service and pricing innovation.
It believes that the “appropriate and balanced policy approach” is to encourage one new MNO to enter the market, since, based on its study, the entry of two or more new MNOs could result in a fragmentation of spectrum holdings among the newcomers as well as a smaller market share for each new player.