Singapore Telcos Seek Delay in 3G Rollout

Around the world, telecommunications companies have spent billions for third-generation (3G) licenses in recent years but have found it difficult to recoup costs due to the delay in the launch of networks and services

Firms in Singapore are the latest group to ask authorities to delay the deadline that was set for rolling out the new wireless standard. M1, SingTel and StarHub, who each paid about US$55 million for the right to launch 3G services, have asked authorities to remove the December 31, 2004 deadline they are facing.

SingTel and StarHub have asked for the timing of the 3G rollout to be based on commercial ground, given the high investment costs required (where SingTel Mobile has said that about US$192 million will be spent on building its 3G network over the next three years), the lack of maturity of 3G technology and the uncertainty surrounding 3G.

StarHub added that many regulators around the world have already relaxed rollout requirements for operators. M1, however, cited that the shortage of 3G handsets a concern among operators.

Based on a report by Pyramid Research, entitled Five Steps to the Perfect Mobile App, it found that many of the high-tech services offered in Japan do not require expensive, 3G networks. The most popular services, in fact, utilize cheaper, 2G and 2.5G technologies.

Japan has almost 50 million mobile Internet subscribers and more than three million photo-mail users. In addition, each 3G subscriber, albeit relatively few in number (27,000), generates an impressive US$78 per month, compared to a US$53 average in the United States.

An Analyst for Pyramid Research and author of the report, John Barrett, said: “There are some really exciting services being offered in Japan right now. People can watch video-clips, take pictures, surf the Internet, and do videoconferencing all with their mobile phones. Even more exciting is the fact that a lot of these services are being offered with less expensive, non-3G technologies. That’s potentially bad news for some who have already bought 3G spectrum, but good news for subscribers because it means cheaper services.”

Although all will agree that the applications/services using non-3G technology are cheaper and as a result more popular with the masses, not all will agree that General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) or 2.5G, which promises data rates of up to 114 Kilo bits per second (Kbps) is a good replacement for 3G, which boosts of speeds of 384 Kbps, especially when games or applications become more sophisticated and more graphics-oriented.

However, at the end of the day, the choice remains with the consumers. Whether the ‘winner’ is 3G or 2.5G, it can only be clearly measured when 3G finally takes off in parts of Asia.


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