No mobile coverage at new Sports Hub? IDA steps in

The authorities have stepped in to resolve an impasse between telcos and the developer of the Singapore Sports Hub that threatened to leave the complex without any mobile coverage when it opens in April. -- ST FILE PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The authorities have stepped in to resolve an impasse between telcos and the developer of the Singapore Sports Hub that threatened to leave the complex without any mobile coverage when it opens in April. -- ST FILE PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Three telcos had refused to pay the rent demanded by wireless provider

The authorities have stepped in to resolve an impasse between telcos and the developer of the Singapore Sports Hub that threatened to leave the complex without any mobile coverage when it opens in April.

Unlike other developers that work directly with telcos to place equipment carrying mobile signals, the Sports Hub has a deal with locally-based systems integrator Consistel that is the first of its kind here.

It has commissioned Consistel to build and host all its wireless systems, including 3G and 4G equipment in the 35ha facility.

Consistel then leases the use of this equipment to the three mobile operators - SingTel, StarHub and M1.

Trouble began when the telcos refused to pay the rents demanded by Consistel, The Straits Times understands.

As a result, negotiations that started in mid-2013 were left unresolved - with just three months left to the opening of the $1.33 billion Sports Hub.

Meanwhile, the telcos could not install their own mobile equipment as they were not given access to the complex, The Straits Times understands.

"It would have been disastrous if one could not make calls or surf on mobile devices at a national showpiece like the Sports Hub that is expected to host major concerts and sport events," said Forrester telco analyst Clement Teo.

The situation became so critical that the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) stepped in.

On Monday, it added a clarification to its building code, making it clear that while exclusive arrangements are allowed, they do not "exempt" building owners or developers from giving other telecom licensees access to their premises.

In a rare joint statement to The Straits Times, the three telcos applauded the directive. "The deployment of mobile networks is challenging, especially if there are terms and conditions imposed by building owners which may delay implementation," they said.

"Sports Hub was approached in late 2012, while negotiations with Consistel started in mid-2013. To date, no commercial agreement has been reached with Consistel, and we strive to settle this amicably."

The unresolved issues were related to meeting IDA's service standard requirements and costs, among other things.

Sports Hub chief executive officer Philippe Collin Delavaud said that the developer will comply with IDA's latest regulations.

He also defended the infrastructure Consistel developed, saying that it is capable of hosting all the different mobile operators.

An IDA spokesman said it urges the parties to "come to agreement" and that it "will intervene to resolve any dispute" to ensure that mobile services are provided by the time the Sports Hub opens.

itham@sph.com.sg