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At the end of June 2010, Singapore had just over 7mn mobile subscribers, reflecting a 7.3% year-on-year increase. The pace of SingTel’s deduction of inactive prepaid subscribers, which led to the weak growth in the first quarter, has significantly slowed down. Going forward, unless StarHub and M1 engage in similar deductions, we believe the mobile growth rate will maintain relatively stable until year-end 2010. Meanwhile, we are encouraged by growing demand for 3G services, fuelled by smartphones bundled with attractive price plans introduced by operators. According to our latest forecasts, we expect almost 7.2mn mobile subscribers and mobile penetration rates to reach 145% by the end of 2010. Similarly, we now predict 4.4mn 3G subscribers, to account for 60.7% of the total mobile subscribers, before increasing to 80.1% in 2014.
Following successful tests on M1’s Long Term Evolution (LTE) network with Nokia Siemens Networks, SingTel became the first in the region to successfully power on air the 42Mbps mobile broadband network during a trial conducted with Ericsson. Similarly, StarHub is targeting a full implementation of the world’s first smartphone signalling solution by Huawei on its advance HSPA+ 3G network by year-end 2010, which is aimed to enhance network performance. We believe the recent telecoms infrastructure development reflects the surge in 3G subscribers, BMI expects the growth momentum to be sustained in the medium term and additional investment in upgrading and introducing new technologies should ease any potential network congestion.
Meanwhile, the IDA announced a public consultation that aims to increase the penalties for telecoms operators that breach licence conditions, codes of practice and standards of performance. Key changes include an upward revision of the maximum penalty cap to 10% of the total revenue of the operator and empowering the government to separate an operator’s operations and assets in the interest of the public. Singapore fell to third place in BMI’s latest Business Environment Ratings for Asia Pacific. Singapore received a lower score in the Industry Rewards category due to high mobile penetration and fewer opportunities for investment, creating limited rewards for players. This negated the increase in Country Rewards on the back of improving economic conditions, and allowed South Korea to rise to second place.