Expect faster mobile surfing speeds after airwave auction

People using their mobile phones onboard a train.
People using their mobile phones onboard a train.PHOTO: ST FILE

Consumers can expect faster surfing and better connectivity following yesterday's mobile airwave sale, which was the most aggressive auction seen in the past 16 years.

"There was aggressive bidding," said Mr Denis Seek, M1 chief technical officer.

M1 secured blocks of spectrum in the premium 900MHz and 700MHz frequency bands, which it said will allow it to improve its 4G coverage and provide better connectivity. It will also deploy new technologies to augment existing network capacity to support more users.

StarHub chief executive officer Tan Tong Hai said that the spectrum it secured will allow it to plan the road map for 5G services, which are said to be more than 10 times faster than 4G ones.

"The spectrum, however, came at significantly higher cost than previous auctions, due to the participation of an additional bidder, which led to intense competition among the bidders," said Mr Tan.

 

Singtel - which paid the highest fees for the maximum amount of spectrum allowed for each telco - said the investment, especially in the premium 700MHz frequency band, will allow it to stay at the cutting edge of technology development.

"This investment puts us in a strong position to support the growth of IoT (Internet of Things) and 5G initiatives in the future," said Mr Yuen Kuan Moon, Singtel Consumer Singapore chief executive officer.

IoT refers to day-to-day appliances like light bulbs, air purifiers and cameras which are connected to the Internet for remote management. They can also be programmed to turn on, for example, when the air contains contaminants or when motion is detected.

Research firm Gartner estimates that the number of such devices globally - excluding smartphones and computers - will reach 21 billion by 2020, up from 4.9 billion last year.

Analysts also believe that the four telcos were bidding fiercely in the auction as mobile airwaves are becoming more scarce.

Mr Clement Teo, principal analyst at market research firm Ovum, said: "Telcos bid aggressively as the next available spectrum block will not be freed up from existing use until end 2021."

UOB Kay Hian director of research Jonathan Koh said: "This is the highest price ever paid for spectrum in Singapore. It means telcos can no longer cut prices aggressively."

Media and technology lawyer Bryan Tan of Pinsent Masons MPillay said that having a fourth player in the market, TPG, may put a cap on price hikes. "A new telco is supposed to bring about more competition, not less," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2017, with the headline 'Expect faster mobile surfing speeds after airwave auction'. Print Edition | Subscribe