May 25, 2005
Broadband market opens up
Prices look set to fall as four new players join existing ISPs to offer wireless services
By Alfred Siew
INTERNET surfers will have more high-speed services to choose from in the coming months, after six Internet service providers won their bids to operate wireless broadband services yesterday.
Four new entrants into the wireless broadband market, Pacific Internet (PacNet), MobileOne, Inter-touch Holdings (Singapore) and Qala Singapore, paid between $215,200 and $550,000 for a single lot on the frequency spectrum after several rounds of a government auction that began last week.
This lets them offer new broadband services that do not rely on a traditional cable or phone system, such as those currently offered by SingTel and StarHub.
These wireless services are being introduced to open up the broadband market, now dominated by incumbents SingTel and StarHub.
The services employ new technology to let users surf the Web at home or on the go and will cover a much wider area than current wireless services.
Said Infocomm Development Authority's director-general for telecoms Leong Keng Thai: 'With the deployment of new WBA (wireless broadband access) services, we expect that competition in the local broadband market will be invigorated.'
Broadband prices, starting from $47.25 a month for a SingNet 512kbps unlimited service, are higher here than in Hong Kong, where a 10mbps service costs HK$148 (S$31) a month.
A PacNet spokesman said the company will offer a nationwide wireless broadband service, starting with a commercial trial this year.
'From the interest shown by the incumbents and the mobile operators, it is evident that wireless broadband is a threat to existing wired broadband technologies and 3G services,' he added.
PacNet paid $2.27 million for five lots of the radio spectrum - enough, it says, to offer a nationwide service that will compete with rivals SingTel and StarHub.
The prices are far lower than the $100 million that each cellphone operator paid for a 3G licence in 2001.
SingTel and StarHub, which have existing fixed line broadband networks, also secured pieces of the airwaves to supplement their infrastructure. SingTel paid $2.05 million for four lots of spectrum; StarHub, $1 million for two.
But all eyes are now on the new entrants.
Qala director Alex Tan said his company, which secured six lots for almost $1.4 million, may target consumers as well as companies wanting an affordable service.
Cellphone operator MobileOne grabbed four lots for $2.1 million, but the company's spokesman was non-committal about its plans.
The least-known of the successful bidders, broadband service provider inter-touch Holdings, paid $1.02 million for four lots.
The successful bidders can deploy their wireless networks from July 1, and have to offer services within the next 18 to 36 months.