OMGTel finalising $400m funding for fourth telco bid, promises to address consumer pain

A man checks on his mobile phone as he walks along Change Alley during lunch hour in the Central Business District at Raffles Place.
A man checks on his mobile phone as he walks along Change Alley during lunch hour in the Central Business District at Raffles Place.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Singapore fourth telco contender OMGTel has promised to remove the pain of pricey roaming charges, stray signals from Indonesia and spotty network coverage, even as it is finalising $400 million of funding to help with its bid for the license.

The unit of Consistel, which set up the Sports Hub's wireless systems, is hoping to raise a total of $1 billion to build a brand-new 4G network islandwide.

"We're close to securing 40 per cent of the total funding we need. We have serious investment offers. We only have to sign the papers," said Mr Masoud Bassiri, Consistel and OMGTel chairman and founder at a press briefing on Thursday. He would not disclose investor details, citing intense rivalry in this space.

It is confident of raising $1 billion by the third quarter of this year, when the official auction for mobile airwaves is expected to take place.

New entrants will be offered 60 MHz worth of mobile frequencies at a discount of 45 per cent, or at a reserve price of $35 million. The potential fourth telco could be rolling out its services as early as April 2017.

OMGTel's newly-appointed chief executive officer Bill Amelio, a technology veteran, said the company will be "aggressive and hungry" in the upcoming auction. It is expected to be contested by another fourth telco hopeful MyRepublic, a locally-based fibre broadband services provider.

Should OMGTel win mobile airwaves in the auction to become the fourth operator here, it said it will compete on talk-time, roaming charges and contract length as well as network quality.

"We can deliver consistent coverage as you walk from the carpark to the lift and into buildings and trains. Right now, coverage is very choppy," said Mr Bassiri.

The company claimed it could roll out an islandwide network as early as the end of next year using its proprietary automation software for indoor network planning, among other systems.

It is also targeting to unseat StarHub as the No. 2 mobile operator in Singapore. "We are not doing this to be the smallest operator," said Mr Bassiri.

Former Cabinet minister George Yeo, who is OMGTel's advisor, said at the press conference: "Singapore does need a fourth operator given the state of technological development in the world...Today, people get a bill shock when they forget to switch off auto-roaming. We should be in a world where these things are like water and electricity; you pay a fixed rate and the marginal cost is zero."

itham@sph.com.sg