Singapore’s three mobile operators have come out strongly against the government’s measures to encourage a fourth player to join the field and said the small market doesn’t need additional competition.

M1, SingTel and StarHub, unsurprisingly, warned separately that service quality in the city state could be reduced with the available spectrum split between four operators.

Singapore’s telecoms regulator in July 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 move by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) is designed to significantly lower the barriers to entry for a fourth mobile player as well as ease the path for potential MVNOs to launch services.

The 60MHz block reserved for a newcomer will have a base price of just SGD40 million ($29.5 million), which is 60 per cent below the reserve price for the main auction.

All three operators submitted comments to the IDA’s public consultation, which closed last month. SingTel was quite blunt in stating: “IDA’s proposition that new entrants will provide scope for greater competition and service innovation is not supported by evidence and is contrary to the commonly held position that the market is competitive. It is not clear that the Singapore mobile marketplace can sustain a fourth MNO, whether its entry is subsidised or not.”

Market leader SingTel said new entrants should join the main auction, while StarHub raised concerns about the preferential treatment given to new entrants.

StarHub, the second largest operator, suggested that if the IDA wants additional competition, its policy of encouraging “the introduction of more MVNOs is sufficient. There are a number of MVNOs in the market already, and we believe that this trend will continue”.

M1 called the subsidised price for the 60MHz block “unprecedented” and said there is sufficient spectrum set aside for a new entrant.

All three expressed concerns that they would face spectrum constraints if a newcomer acquires the 60MHz, which includes 2x10MHz of 700MHz and 2x10MHz of 900MHz.

The IDA received feedback from 13 companies, including MyRepublic, a likely bidder for the fourth licence, and Liberty Wireless, which is expected to launch MVNO service using M1’s network later this year.