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Singapore Set for Broadband Ramp

Paul Rainford

While the Singapore government is busy plowing its taxpayers’ millions into the nationwide delivery of high-speed fiber access broadband, the real story in the island state might be in the mobile sector, according to a new report from Pyramid Research . (See Singapore Slings for AlcaLu, Huawei.)

The report, "Singapore: Fiber Initiative to Drive Higher Adoption of Broadband and Pay-TV," notes that the state-backed National Broadband Network (NBN) project will undoubtedly enhance the appeal of fixed broadband. To date, broadband takeup in the fixed sector has been slow, partly because of the almost universal availability of free WiFi. (See Singapore Unveils Digital Hub Vision and Singapore Makes FTTH Strides .)

However, the wider availability of large-screen 3G handsets and faster mobile broadband leads the report’s authors, Tae-Hyung Kim and Luís Portela, to predict that 40 percent of Singaporeans will subscribe to mobile broadband by 2014, nearly three times the 2009 figure of 14 percent. Mobile broadband revenue is expected to more than triple, reaching US$188 million by 2014.

The Singaporean mobile market is unusual in that it is divided into two distinct sections: native Singaporeans, who are predominantly on post-paid accounts; and a very large number of migrants, who mostly use pre-paid services. The incumbent operator, Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY), has responded to the recent influx of migrants by offering tempting deals on post-paid tariffs in a bid to shift more of them over to the higher-value packages.

On the fixed-access side, pay-TV looks to be a big growth area, according to the report, especially once all that promised fiber is in place. The report predicts that pay-TV market penetration will reach 89 percent by 2014, up from an already respectable 65 percent in 2009. IPTV could account for 46 percent of the pay-TV connections by 2014.

SingTel, with its mio TV IPTV offering, has recently gained ground on pay-TV market leader StarHub , mainly thanks to a focus on higher-value content. The advent of fiber will also enable MobileOne Ltd. (M1) (Singapore: MONE), the third major market player, to enter the pay-TV fray. (See SingTel Hits 100K for IPTV.)

Things could get moving soon on the mobile TV front as well: The major players tested DVB-H mobile TV in 2008, as did the state broadcaster, MediaCorp. They are now waiting for the Media Development Authority to decide on the final regulations for mobile TV -- and those are due soon.

— Paul Rainford, freelance editor, special to Light Reading

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