Hiring moves by 4th telco could spark talent war

Analysts expect many hires to be local; TPG expects local ops to need 400 staff over time

Recruitment at TPG Telecom, crowned Singapore's fourth mobile operator last week, has kicked into high gear and could lead to a war for engineering talent.

The Australian telco advertised for the position of chief technology officer on job site LinkedIn, and is also looking to hire other senior management personnel and network engineers in Singapore.

Mr Tony Moffatt, TPG's general counsel, told The Straits Times: "We are focusing our hiring efforts in Singapore and do not expect to bring many, if any, people from Australia."

He added that the local operations is expected to grow to 400 people over time.

TPG now has 6,000 staff around the world, including Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and the Philippines.

Last Wednesday, with its winning bid of $105 million, TPG edged out local fibre broadband provider MyRepublic in an airwave auction to become Singapore's fourth mobile operator. Its licence will start in April next year.

The telco expects to invest another $200 million to $300 million to build a network to provide nationwide services by September 2018, as required by local regulator, the Infocomm Media Development Authority.

BETTER PAY FOR TALENT

There will be a competition for talent in Singapore. Talented network engineers and marketing professionals should see their pay packages go up.

MR RAMAKRISHNA MARUVADA, telecoms researcher at Daiwa Capital Markets.

In Australia, TPG operates partly as a mobile virtual network operator, buying airtime in bulk from the existing dominant telcos instead of building its own physical mobile networks. This is why analysts also expect its network rollout here to be done by local hires.

Mr Ramakrishna Maruvada, a telecoms researcher at Daiwa Capital Markets, said: "There will be a competition for talent in Singapore. Talented network engineers and marketing professionals should see their pay packages go up."

Local telcos - Singtel, StarHub and M1 - are prepared to fight tooth and nail to keep their staff.

M1 spokesman Chua Hian Hou said: "M1's employees are critical to our continued success, and we are committed to developing and retaining all our staff."

Ms Aileen Tan, Singtel group chief human resources officer, said it offers competitive remuneration and its shared history with employees has played a big part in staff retention.

"Many of our staff, including our network engineers, have been with us for many years now," she said.

Mrs Chan Hoi San, StarHub senior vice-president of human resource, also said its competitive pay packages and a fun corporate culture have kept staff.

"StarHub regards our employees as our key differentiator in delivering the best customer experience," she said.

TPG has 475,000 mobile customers in Australia, providing generous SIM-only mobile plans with no lock-in period.

For instance, its A$39.99 (S$42) a month plan comes with 10GB of data, plus unlimited calls and SMSes. Earlier this week, it slashed the price to A$24.99 per month for new sign-ups.

It also has 1.87 million fixed-line broadband subscribers as Australia's No. 2 broadband provider, after its A$1.5 billion takeover of Internet service provider and rival iiNet in August last year.

Comparatively, Singtel's Optus has 1.11 million broadband users and 9.42 million mobile subscribers in Australia.

Malaysian-born David Teoh, 60, heads TPG as chairman and chief executive. The reclusive billionaire, ranked ninth on Forbes' 50 Richest list in Australia, is also TPG's largest shareholder, with a 34.37 per cent stake.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2016, with the headline 'Hiring moves by 4th telco could spark talent war'. Print Edition | Subscribe