The race for the fourth telco licence in Singapore is now a two-way fight, with one contestant having been disqualified by the authorities.
Local fibre broadband operator MyRepublic and Australian telco TPG Telecom will get to slug it out in the 4G mobile airwave auction, slated to wrap up by next month, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) announced yesterday.
Three-month-old local start-up airYotta, which signed up for the auction in September against expectations, has been disqualified.
The IMDA said in a statement that airYotta did not fully meet its auction requirements, but did not elaborate.
The winner of the auction will become Singapore's fourth mobile operator, and it will be the first time in 15 years that the three-way hold on the market by Singtel, StarHub and M1 will be loosened.
Said Mr Clement Teo, principal analyst at market research firm Ovum: "MyRepublic and TPG are strong fourth-telco contenders, which could give the three local telcos a run for their money."
When evaluating potential bidders, the IMDA said that it considers - among other factors - whether the candidates have the necessary management and operational experience in deploying and operating a public telecommunications network. They are also judged on their financial standing, integrity, credibility and reputation.
It is also not known whether airYotta's links to local wireless systems specialist Consistel played a part in its disqualification.
airYotta chief executive officer Michael DeNoma and chief technology officer Philip Heah were former executives of the now-defunct OMGTel - airYotta's predecessor.
OMGTel was partly owned by Consistel. The latter was fined $300,000 in August for breaching its licensing obligations when it agreed to sell the Sports Hub's telecommunications system - which it owned - to another company, without first getting the approval of the IMDA.
The police are also investigating Consistel for having submitted false documents to mislead the IMDA that the sale agreement had not yet been signed.
In a statement, MyRepublic said: "We remain committed to bringing Singapore a truly fixed-mobile converged offering, including generous data, seamless coverage and support for the massive potential of the Internet of Things."
The company - which provides fibre broadband services in New Zealand, Indonesia and Australia - said it plans to bring mobile services to the region following a Singapore rollout if it wins the licence.
A spokesman for Australia's No. 2 fixed-line broadband provider, TPG - founded by Malaysia-born Australian businessman David Teoh - applauded the IMDA's move to encourage a fourth mobile entrant.
Specifically, the new entrant will be able to bid for 60 MHz worth of mobile frequencies at a reserve price of $35 million, at a discount of 45 per cent.
"We believe that mobile telephony and broadband are going to continue to increase in importance for consumers and businesses in the future, and we definitely want to be a supplier," said the TPG spokesman, noting that opportunities abound with Singapore's Smart Nation plans.
Mr DeNoma of airYotta said in a statement: "Putting in place the components of what would be Singapore's first data-led telco in a limited amount of time was always to be a miraculous journey."