IDA's plans to woo more mobile operators: 5 things you need to know

The Infocomm Development Authority said on Tuesday it wants to woo more telco operators to set up shop here, including mobile virtual network operators (MVNO). -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
The Infocomm Development Authority said on Tuesday it wants to woo more telco operators to set up shop here, including mobile virtual network operators (MVNO). -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

The Infocomm Development Authority said on Tuesday it wants to woo more telco operators to set up shop here, including mobile virtual network operators (MVNO).

We look at five things you need to know about these operators.

What are MVNOs?

As the name suggests, these operators typically do not have their own physical mobile networks. Instead, they buy airtime from existing dominant telcos. 

In Singapore's case, these telcos would be SingTel, StarHub and M1. And unlike telcos, they do not offer the full range of mobile services.

What services do they offer?

They usually market their services - which can include roaming and mobile broadband - under their own brand. They often set themselves apart from full-fledged mobile network operators like the telcos through areas such as cheaper pricing, customer service and value-added services, such as static Internet Protocol addresses.

Such operators may serve consumers or businesses. Many firms in the consumer market are in the pre-paid space. Some serving consumers can slash prices for services like data roaming by more than 50 per cent.

MVNOs are common in countries such as the United States and those in Europe, like Britain's Tesco Mobile. In some of these markets, such operators account for more than 10 per cent of the mobile market.

Who is the first to set up shop here?

The MVNO model was first introduced here by British entrepreneur Richard Branson's Virgin Group when it launched Virgin Mobile in 2001. It closed down barely a year into operations, citing weak market conditions.

But an IDA spokesman said a lot has changed since then, with more people using mobile data now.

Who are the current operators here?

There are 13 licensed operators in Singapore.

Of these, six cater to niche markets, such as customers from specific countries, and serve about 80,000 customers, or less than 1 per cent of the 8.4 million mobile lines here.

The rest of the operators typically serve businesses.

The 13 operators here are:

- Assa Abloy Singapore

- Changi Travel Services

- Citic Telecom International

- Connecting Communication and Solutions

- Global Wifi.com

- LGA Telecom

- Matrix Cellular

- New4U System

- Nexus Telecom

- PLDT Retail Service

- Sim2Travel

- Yourwifi

- Ztar Mobile Asia

What are some of the services they offer here?

Here's a snapshot of what they offer:

Yourwifi: Based in Singapore, the company provides wireless communications services for travellers abroad under the XCom Global brand from the US.

PLTD Retail Service: From the Philippines, the company bought airtime from M1 to launch Smart Pinoy pre-paid card services, offering cheaper calls to the Philippines.

LGA Telecom: This home-grown company offers 3G mobile broadband tailored for small- and medium-sized enterprises, as well as other mobile services.

Sim2Travel: The Taiwanese company partners with telcos to offer roaming services as well as local phone numbers for travellers to use.

Comments