TPG 'seeking rooftop space for mobile equipment'

Singapore is the only market outside of Australia where TPG has a telco licence.
Singapore is the only market outside of Australia where TPG has a telco licence.PHOTO: ST FILE

Fourth telco gearing up for launch of nationwide services by next September

TPG Telecom is knocking on the doors of building owners asking for rooftop space to install mobile equipment, as Singapore's fourth telco inches towards the launch of nationwide mobile services by September next year.

Sources told The Straits Times that TPG started contacting building owners a few months ahead of receiving the rights to use mobile airwaves, which it paid $105 million for in an auction late last year.

In an e-mail to a condominium manager seen by ST, TPG wrote: "We would like to seek your support and assistance for us to set up our outdoor system.

"As an upcoming fourth mobile operator, we need to bring the network up islandwide soonest possible so as to meet the IMDA's QoS (quality of service) requirements."

For instance, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) requires TPG's 4G network to cover at least 99 per cent of all outdoor areas from October next year, and 85 per cent of all road tunnels and buildings from October 2019.

Networks are considered to have "covered" an area if a mobile phone shows at least one bar of signal strength - enough to make calls and send text messages.

TPG did not reply to ST queries.

In a separate general auction last month, TPG paid $23.8 million for another block of airwaves.

Singapore is the only market outside of Australia where TPG has a telco licence. But experts said there may be delays in the installation as building owners are not obliged to provide rooftop space.

IMDA receives, on average, 30 objections by building owners every year to such mobile installations, Parliament heard late last year.

Revisions are being made to the Code of Practice for Info- communication Facilities in Buildings - which governs telco installations in buildings - to make it compulsory to provide rent-free rooftop space for mobile equipment, and allow the equipment to provide mobile signals to neighbouring areas.

Until the revisions are finalised and kick in, TPG - like the other telcos, Singtel, StarHub and M1 - has to pay commercial rates to owners. ST understands that it may cost several thousands of dollars per sq ft.

So far, TPG has been holding its launch plans close to its chest, although it had said it wanted a 5 per cent to 6 per cent share of the mobile user base here. It had also said it would spend $200 million to $300 million - deemed "modest" by analysts - to build the 4G network here.

Mr Clement Teo, principal analyst at market research firm Ovum, said: "TPG's roll-out will likely be phased, focusing initially on commercial buildings for Central Business District coverage, followed by residential areas."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2017, with the headline 'TPG 'seeking rooftop space for mobile equipment''. Print Edition | Subscribe