Does Singapore really need a 4th operator?

first_img Tags Previous ArticleGoogle unveils Project Fi mobile serviceNext ArticleZTE, Huawei kick off war of words in fresh patent dispute HomeBlog Does Singapore really need a 4th operator? Joseph Waring joins Mobile World Live as the Asia editor for its new Asia channel. Before joining the GSMA, Joseph was group editor for Telecom Asia for more than ten years. In addition to writing features, news and blogs, he… Read more Blog: Singapore plots path to 5G leadership Blog: Operators rush to boost data offerings in “competitive” Singapore market NEW BLOG: Last week’s news that an SMRT-funding venture is interesting in biding for a fourth mobile licence next year has raised an important question for would-be mobile service providers in the city-state: Can Singapore support a fourth network operator?The country has a population of 5.6 million and a SIM penetration rate of 145 per cent. More than 70 per cent of mobile users have mobile broadband.Its main public transport provider SMRT was reported to have an option to invest up to SGD34.5 million ($25.3 million) in upstart OMGTel if the latter is successful in obtaining a licence. OMGTel was incorporated in October by Consistel, a local technology group, to bid for the country’s fourth mobile operator licence next year.Local regulator IDA has wanted a fourth player since 1998 (when another licence was awarded, but later withdrawn) to encourage competition, since the government’s view is that the operators have high ARPU and margins, notes Ovum principle analyst Nicole McCormick, who covers the service provider market. “We expect concessions for the potential fourth MNO from the government.”But over the years there has been little interest. Last year’s 4G auction attracted only the three incumbents.Some consultants have said that the optimal number of operators in a single market is usually three. The lack of takers in a fourth licence in the past is testament to that.The barriers to entry in Singapore are particularly high. OMGTel estimates that, in addition to the spectrum cost, it will need to invest about $1 billion to roll out a basic network. And besides the network side, a newcomer needs to spend heavily on marketing to attract customers.“Any new entrant at this stage will face serious challenges with reach,” said Bob Fox, a telecoms consultant and director of Foxcom.McCormick agreed, saying it will be difficult for a new entrant to make significant inroads into Singapore, unless it can find a way to differentiate itself from the established operators.Surprisingly, OMGTel is not alone in its interest. MyRepublic announced last year it plans to bid for the licence and has been raising funds. It tried to take the MVNOs path a couple of years back but was unable to negotiate a viable access deal with a particular mobile network operator.Despite the arguments for the need for additional competition at the service layer, some analysts warn that the entry of a fourth player could actually hurt the market because it would likely need to resort to price cutting to gain market share. That could bring the entire market down. The number 2 and 3 players – StarHub and M1 – would likely be hit the hardest.The MVNO optionFox suggests new players consider other options, such as a domestic roaming arrangement, wholesale use of the country’s NBN or an MVNO.Industry sources say the regulator is now thinking seriously about opening the market to MVNOs and sees a role for them to play in injecting more innovation and competition.A government consultation on allocating new spectrum and enhancing competition, which opened a year ago and drew in responses from 20 companies, has been under review by the IDA since last June.An IDA representative told Mobile World Live that it is in the process of assessing the feedback and is expected to release a proposed plan early next year and then ask for feedback from the industry before finalising the new regulations.Insiders say the final result likely will be that the IDA requires mobile licence holders to give wholesale access to MNVOs. That thinking, of course, is speculation and the future policy won’t be clear until at least next year.The MVNO route certainly would be less risky.To its credit, the IDA seems to have responded to rising complaints over the past few years that the three major mobile operators offer a limited selection of data packages compared to other markets.In its response to the consultation, Liberty Wireless stated that offers in Singapore have converged over time to three to four packages with broadly similar pricing packages. “Such offerings cannot possibly capture the diversity of Singapore’s local and international population.”Liberty’s detailed response to the IDA noted that markets like Hong Kong and London offer more than eight different packages across multiple operators, with most including unlimited voice, generous data packages, and/or tiered pricing by data usage, and ways to customise plans.It goes on to say: “Across most of these package there seems to be more flexibility and transparency for the consumer and no charges for ‘expected’ services like caller ID.”Liberty, a Singapore-based regional MVNO, has plans to offer the fourth mobile service in Singapore with a launch later this year. Liberty, of course, believes MVNOs are a “materially smarter way compared to a new MNO to bring competition to the market and thinks it is important to work on innovation rather than focus on price to win”.The company’s director, Adeel Najam, told Mobile World Live: “We are working to innovate on the service, application and core network layer and believe in bringing consumer benefit while sustaining long-term value for the industry.”Singapore’s mobile operators are no doubt content with the status quo. As the market leader with a 51 per cent market share, SingTel is the least incentivised to offer an MVNO access.But the big three should realise the market is changing, consumers are increasingly demanding and the IDA is likely to mandate at some point that they open up access to stimulate innovation.Instead of blocking their way until legally required to, they need to see it as an opportunity to start innovating their service offerings to prepare for the inevitable increase in competition that is coming.The new environment will not only be better for consumers, but operators will be pushed to develop more sustainable business models, rather than replicate what the competition is doing.The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members. Blog center_img Author Related AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to LinkedInLinkedInLinkedInShare to TwitterTwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookFacebookShare to MoreAddThisMore 23 APR 2015 Blog: Will Rakuten Mobile be the Jio of Japan? Joseph Waring fourth mobile licenceIDALiberty WirelessMVNOOMGTelSingaporeSMRTlast_img read more

The three faces of Donald Trump

first_imgEven among people who think about Trump all the time, there was wide variance in the answers. (If you want to play the parlor game? Send an email explaining your reasoning to [email protected])No one opted to put all their chips on one square. Trump is too much of a kaleidoscopic character for that. But there were some interesting general trends.One is that political practitioners were much more likely to give Trump credit for being a genuine tribune. He may frequently tell lies, the theory goes, but he is not a phony. He puts his essential nature on plain view, and this has given him extraordinary latitude to shatter norms in ways that would be politically fatal to conventional candidates. Many of these people believe he may not have a well-developed philosophy, but he has some consistent ideas about trade and national sovereignty that have harnessed a genuine gust of history.One strategist who is regularly analyzing polling data in the race but not formally aligned with either candidate said Democrats will make a mistake by spending much time trying to argue about Trump’s character or redefine his persona. The only thing that moves numbers, this person said, is arguments that he is ineffective in responding to the pandemic or other pressing policy challenges.Journalists typically see it differently. Very few give Trump much credit for being a tribune—they think he is too self-absorbed and improvisational to think more than passingly about ideas or people beyond his immediate circle, or what he sees on TV. What’s more, while many commentators and editorial pages fully embrace the Trump as tyrant thesis, many working news reporters tend to put just as many or more of their chips on Trump as buffoon. Even a dictator like Putin has a certain discipline to his ruthlessness and has thought deeply about his historic project of regaining Russian power on the world stage. One prominent reporter who follows Trump said he has authoritarian sympathies but is not a full-fledged fascist. People underappreciate how much of a “people pleaser” Trump is, eager for applause and affirmation, and that Trump has “no theory of the case” to be a plausible American incarnation of Putin.Let’s give the last word, then, to someone who does have a deep understanding of the Russian incarnation of Putin. Michael McFaul, a Stanford foreign policy expert and Obama’s ambassador to Russia, agrees with Timothy Snyder that all three baskets of Trump interpretation are somewhat true. It’s also true that Trump may share some broad ideas about politics and power but, “he’s certainly not as ideologically sophisticated as Putin.” (The closest analogue, he suggested, was the puffed-up but ultimately ineffectual figure of Benito Mussolini.) In the end, it will be up to historians to decide who Trump really was, and that argument is likely to last far longer than his presidency. But the inability to agree on Trump matters in the moment as well—and perhaps very urgently.The Republican National Convention that ended Thursday night was less a party event than a kind of re-coronation, an effort by the party to embrace the president and soften his edges—which were then continually re-sharpened by the Trump family itself. The Democratic National Convention was a demonstration that there are still competing interpretations of what threat he really represents, and thus how to beat him. For Democrats, and to some extent the news media, the now-familiar challenge is that denunciations of Trump are more likely to strengthen his hold on supporters than to dilute it.From the start of his first campaign in the summer of 2015, there have been three dominant interpretations of Trump and the Trump phenomenon. These three models go up and down in terms of which one has the most currency among the news media, the political class and the public broadly. But it is notable that the entrees at the analytical buffet have not changed:Interpretation One: Trump is the political equivalent of a pro wrestling celebrity. He cares about (and is skilled in reaping) media attention and self-affirmation and not really much else—including ideas, or history, or party-building, or how specific policies fit into a larger whole, or how one day in the presidential spotlight connects in some linear way to the next. This is Bill Clinton’s buffoon thesis. It’s not that someone like this can’t cause a lot of damage, but, as a political type, it is different in character than …Interpretation Two: Trump is the American equivalent of Vladimir Putin. In this light, Trump is more than just a self-absorbed improvisationalist. To the contrary, he operates with clear purpose: To weaken the mechanisms of democratic accountability and attack all constraints on his power. Obama offered a mildly more understated version of this thesis at his virtual convention address, standing before a giant blow-up of the U.S. Constitution. It is this thesis that justified his dire warning to voters: “Do not let them take away your power. Do not let them take away your democracy.”Interpretation Three: Trump is a tribune of Americans whose voices are mostly unheard by conventional politicians. Trump may be a bit coarse or hammy, by these lights, but he does possess an intuitive sense of politics and history—of how the system had tilted too far in the direction of self-dealing global elites, diluting frank assertion of national interests and undermining the interests of average Americans. Here was Barack Obama: “I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care.”The subtext: America, this is serious. Trump isn’t just a bad president, he’s an actual threat to our way of self-governance.From the start of his first campaign in the summer of 2015, there have been three dominant interpretations of Trump and the Trump phenomenon.Buffoon and tyrant aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. But they point in very different directions. And the tension between the two highlights a curious reality.Five years after Donald Trump leapt on the stage of presidential politics and instantly came to dominate it—and after two national conventions almost totally consumed by discussion of his character and motives—there still isn’t a stable consensus on just who Trump is, and what gives him power.There are three distinct pictures of Trump jostling for primacy in American politics: the would-be tyrant of Obama’s speech, the clownish dilettante of Clinton’s and a third view that holds him up as a legitimate, if flawed, tribune of a wide swath of America. So, by one interpretation, Trump is making a mockery of democracy. By another he represents an assault on democracy. And by the third he is an authentic expression of democracy.Does one really have to choose? No, it is not essential. Both parties are now headed into the general election with coalitions that include devotees of all three interpretations. Democrats, obviously, draw most support from believers in the buffoon and tyrant categories, along with some people who once believed he was a tribune of their cause but are now disillusioned.Republicans, obviously, have just spent a week—capped by Trump’s speech Thursday night—trying to revive support for the idea that Trump has a singular understanding of how to represent ordinary Americans from liberal excesses and elite indifference. But the GOP coalition also includes some who think a dash of American authoritarianism is just what the doctor ordered for current maladies, or who appreciate the buffoonish elements of Trump’s persona precisely because they know it drives his critics crazy.What’s more, views can change over time. Obama was once firmly an adherent of the buffoon thesis. By some accounts, his mockery of Trump at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, while Trump was in the audience, helped embolden the Republican to run for president. Even after the 2016 election, the New York Times reported the other day, Obama was calling Trump “a cartoon,” and only later did he come to believe that the man posed a more fundamental threat to constitutional values and rule of law.Addressing the interpretive challenge posed by Trump, “There’s no reason to choose among the three,” says Yale historian Timothy Snyder, who wrote the 2017 bestseller On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. “They may be in tension, but there is a way to put them together.” Snyder is one of the leading intellectual apostles of the idea that Trump is a genuine danger, with parallels in the bloody history of Europe. Buffoonery can serve the authoritarian’s purpose, he noted, by distracting attention from important matters, and most authoritarians in history have tapped into some vein of popular support, even if that is marked by prejudice and exclusion.Confronting Trump, however, has always been a good bit more complicated for his foes than simply indexing all the reasons they don’t like him and trying to persuade voters why those reasons are sound. That is because Trump’s appeal depends on being criticized—in the same way a plant can’t thrive without both water and light. It’s useful to consider the distinction between politicians who have absolute appeal versus those who have relative appeal. One good example is Ronald Reagan. To many conservatives, he has absolute appeal—his political and personal traits represent the beau ideal of how presidents should act, in any time or in any circumstances. Many progressives feel the same way about Barack Obama.But even many—possibly most—Trump supporters don’t think his raffish, roguish, divisive and disruptive style represents the ideal of how presidents should act. They just think his brand of politics is right for this moment. His appeal is relative—compared to the hypocrisy or venality or ineffectuality of conventional politics. Data from the Harris polling firm for Harvard’s Center for American Political Studies indicates roughly 40 percent of people who support Trump as a president either dislike him as a person or are indifferent.So critics can roll their eyes and make fun of Trump as a buffoon if they wish. The risk from a liberal perspective is that this looks complacent—do you think an authoritarian in our midst is a laughing matter?—and from a pro-Trump perspective it looks like you are patronizing his supporters. The joke may be on you, just as it was on Obama at the end of his term.Or critics can raise their voices in alarm that he is an incipient American fascist. The risk is that this looks overwrought—and thrills Trump supporters, who love their candidate precisely because he offends liberal pieties.After the 2016 election many Democrats for a season invested a lot of psychic energy in the notion that Trump might indeed be a tribune of the people and that efforts must be made to better connect with his supporters. The problem with this is that no one’s heart is really in it. Most Democrats actually believe, as Hillary Clinton got caught saying out loud in 2016, that Trump draws significant support from racially charged and nativist politics that appeal to ignorant voters and “deplorables.” The phoniness of pretending otherwise would be self-evident.Since all three can be somewhat true, I played a parlor game with a dozen or so political sources and journalists who follow Trump closely. I gave each person ten chips and said they could distribute them on the three squares however they wished. Put all ten chips on one interpretation, if that seems right, or split the difference with four on one square and three on the two others. Two former Democratic presidents last week tried to build up by Joe Biden in part by taking down President Donald Trump. When they did, there were some important distinctions in how they spoke about the man in their party’s crosshairs.Here was Bill Clinton: “If you want a president who defies the job, is spending hours a day watching TV and zapping people on social media, he’s your man.”The subtext: America, we all know this guy is a buffoon. Most likely, McFaul said, Trump is not an “active autocrat” but he is an “indifferent democrat”—someone who doesn’t care about political or constitutional niceties whether he’s playing the tribune, tyrant or buffoon. Now Democrats have just over 9 weeks to decide which face of Trump is most credible—and most alarming—to the most people. Also On POLITICO Trump administration weighs accusing China of ‘genocide’ over Uighurs By Daniel Lippman and Nahal Toosi Richard Grenell claims he watched Trump ‘charm’ Germany’s Angela Merkel By Lara Seligmanlast_img read more