Regulator … the Promoter

“More choices, better services, and cheaper prices–that just
about sums up how satisfied users of handphones and pagers feel since competition was
introduced in Singapore on 1 April 1997.” These were some of the findings of a mobile
phone and paging services survey which was conducted between December 1997 and February
this year and reported in a trend-setter newsletter VISTAS brought about by
Telecommunication Authority of Singapore (TAS), the national policy maker, regulator, and
promoter of telecommunications and post in Singapore.

The survey was based on a total of 1,000 face-to-face interviews
conducted with mobile phone users of both SingTel Mobile and MobileOne (M1), on their
level of satisfaction with quality, pricing and range of mobile phone support
services/applications in the market. The survey was also aimed at assessing users’
awareness of TAS.

Results of Singapore Mobile Survey

Mobile Phone Services

On the whole, services were rated good or excellent by 78 percent of
mobile phone users, with majority of users being satisfied with the current service
activation performance of the operators. About 27 percent had service activation within
four hours upon application.

Findings of the Survey
Monthly expenditure
(in Singapore dollars)
Usage (minutes)
or less
min or less
min or more
or more

with Mobile
year or less
years or more

A great majority—80 percent of
respondents—gave good or excellent ratings for the coverage and quality of mobile
phone services in Singapore. More than 90 percent gave good or excellent ratings for
indoor coverage within and outside the Central Business District, while 81 percent gave
similar ratings for outdoor coverage. As for clarity of voice reception, 90 percent felt
that the voice quality of calls generated within Singapore was good or excellent. About 89
percent also found the line/network availability to be good or excellent.

About half the users said mobile-to-land calls were set
up within five seconds. There was also a great improvement in curbing the number of
dropped calls, with 80 percent of users reporting that they did not have any bad
experiences of dropped calls.


About two in three respondents felt that tariffs were
reasonable or not expensive. However, local airtime charges are still deemed as expensive
by respondents.

Choice of Value-added Services

SingTel Mobile and M1 have introduced a wide range of
value-added services to attract subscribers. Apart from overseas roaming, other services
include voice mail, fax mail, speech dialing, Short Messaging Service (SMS), conference
calls, a stock alert service, and numerous innovative pricing plans. SingTel Mobile has
introduced SpeechDial, where voice recognition technology is used to make a call; Single
Number Service which provides subscribers with just one contact number in place of various
telephone, handphone, and fax numbers; and InforDial information service. SingTel Mobile
now has roaming in 66 countries through over 100 operators. M1 covers 54 countries.

fmcell.gif (7535 bytes)Services such as call
waiting, call transfer, call baring, and voicemail were the most commonly used value-added
services, and nearly three-quarters of respondents found the product offerings useful.

Billing and Customer Support

Both mobile phone operators fared well in terms of
billing services, in areas such as accuracy, clarity of information, and ease of

Role of TAS

There was a high level of awareness about the role of
TAS in introducing competition in the mobile phone market, with 81 percent of mobile phone
users being aware that TAS was responsible for market liberalization.

Targeting the Youth Market

As equipment and service prices come down, mobile phones
(and pagers) are attracting a wider audience beyond mainstream business users. That, in
turn, is leading to more aesthetic designs, and the emergence of customized
"lifestyle" mobile phones, designed to project a trendy image.

"Subscribers are getting younger," said Neil
Montefiore, M1’s CEO in VISTAS. "The mobile phone is also increasingly
being used socially rather than for business only. Saturation point for mobile phones is
probably about 50 percent and the market has some way to go," he said. (The paging
market is also expected to approach
saturation point over the next 12 to 18 months with a market penetration rate of 50-60

Features and functionality are important, say
manufacturers, but so are design and image. So while new GSM phones can offer up to eight
hours talk time, plus calendars, diaries, alarm clocks and schedulers, and SMS, some
models come with colour-changing panels to match your clothes, or hardware to fit the
shape of your face, and software to match your lifestyle profile. Others look to clamshell
designs, hands-free in-car operation, dual batteries and optional directional
micro-phones, and the direction is towards lighter and smaller phones—anywhere from
100 to 200 grams.

Comments from some of the other important players:
"Increasingly, consumers are becoming more style and fashion conscious. Their
purchase decision is based on personal taste and preferences, including the colour,
design, and shape elements. Replacement market or second time buyers, for instance, are
more aware of the mobile phone as a personal item, an extension of their personalities.
They tend to expect phones which are personalized to their needs in all
aspects—technology, features, and design."

"A mobile phone is a personal consumer product with
emotional attachments. Aesthetic appeal through colour and design plays a large part in
the consumer’s purchase and usage decision. Performance and reliability are more
important consumer considerations than phone features and functionality."

Determined to Make Success of Liberalization

For TAS, the dramatic rise in mobile communication penetration rates
underscores the success of the liberalization of the market last year, and points
encouragingly towards an even more open future.

As Singapore becomes the first country to approach the present enviable
saturation barrier of 50 percent, this experience will be worth watching closely at least
by the Indian metro operators.

Liberalization has reaped benefits not only for the new competitor
which has been very successful but also, SingTel has received benefits and growth, by
becoming more competitive and therefore being able to compete in regional markets.

Regulator and Market Promotion

Going by the enthusiasm with which Indian market—the operators as
well as their distribution channels—has received the new TRAI mobile tariff proposals
indicate how much the market looks up to the Regulator for its catalytic role in the
market promotion—more so as the mobile becomes more of a productivity and security

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