'A fourth telco cutting prices won't benefit consumers'

If the upcoming airwave auction spawns a fourth telco that cuts prices to grab market share, consumers could be worse off in the long run, said Singtel's senior management.

"At the end of the day, if the industry is not generating revenues, how can we invest ahead?" Mr Yuen Kuan Moon, Singtel's chief executive of consumer, Singapore, told The Straits Times yesterday.

Mr Yuen pointed out that if existing telcos get "disrupted", they will have less to spend on investment and innovation.

Singapore's regulator last year said it planned to set aside premium frequency bands at a heavily discounted rate for a new telco to enter the market. After feedback from the three local telcos, the authorities are expected to finalise the bidding rules around April.

Ms Chua Sock Koong, Singtel group chief executive, also said yesterday: "The only way (the new player) can gain customers will be by... reducing prices... Just leading prices down, it's not good for the sustainability of the industry."

But in a Facebook post last evening, Mr Malcolm Rodrigues, the chief executive officer of MyRepublic, which is bidding for the licence, said: "We've never competed on price in any market we've entered... The incumbents' networks are not ready for the future. There is a desperate need for innovation in Singapore. We intend to bring it."

That prompted Ms Chua to reply, noting that Mr Rodrigues shared her view that "a price war would make the whole industry suffer and customer experience, poorer".

She added: "To those who took my comments to mean we don't want competition because we don't want to lower prices, that is absolutely not the case. They have every assurance that we will continue to offer the best services at the most competitive prices."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2016, with the headline ''A fourth telco cutting prices won't benefit consumers''. Print Edition | Subscribe