MyRepublic Plots Mobile-Phone Disruption in Singapore

MyRepublic Ltd., which started Internet services in Singapore in 2011, wants to take on mobile-phone companies including Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. by offering wireless services in the city.

MyRepublic said it sent a proposal to the Singapore regulator to build a fourth mobile-phone network after the Infocomm Development Authority requested public feedback in April to improve the city’s mobile landscape.

The company would become Singapore’s first new mobile-phone operator since StarHub Ltd. started services in 2000 to compete with SingTel and M1 Ltd. MyRepublic, run by Chief Executive Officer Malcolm Rodrigues, a former StarHub executive, is going after a slice of the S$3.1 billion ($2.5 billion) wireless market by offering a pure data plan with voice calls running through a smartphone application.

“The incumbents have legacy anchors they have to carry around -- we have a low-cost operating model that we can make money off,” Rodrigues said in an interview yesterday in Singapore. “We’re not coming in to take a 40 percent market share. Our intent is to take a 10 to 15 percent market share and cause some disruption.”

Singapore’s mobile-phone penetration rate was 156 percent in 2013, compared with 85 percent a decade earlier, according to the regulator’s data, as some residents have multiple subscriptions. So-called third-generation or high-speed mobile data subscribers reached 5.3 million in the fourth quarter, close to the city’s population, according to the regulator.

‘Saturated Market’

MyRepublic’s proposal includes using the incumbents’ networks while it builds out its own infrastructure, Rodrigues said.

“They’re fighting a very saturated market here,” Carey Wong, a Singapore-based telecommunications analyst from OCBC Investment Research, said in a phone interview. “It’s not going to be cheap to piggyback on existing telcos’ networks. It’s like taking a taxi versus driving your car. I’m not going to charge you the same price.”

Rodrigues said he expects the regulator to decide on the bidding process and offer the license in as early as nine months.

The Infocomm Development Authority, the regulator, intends to release its response in early 2015, it said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

SingTel rose 0.3 percent to S$3.88 at 3:12 p.m. in Singapore trading. StarHub rose 0.5 percent to S$4.18, and M1 fell 0.3 percent to S$3.52.

Unlimited Data

MyRepublic plans to offer the latest fourth-generation high-speed mobile network, similar to those sold by the three existing phone companies, if the license is awarded, Rodrigues said. He also proposed an unlimited data plan, which none of the operators offer now.

“At this point in time, it is premature for us to comment further prior to IDA’s decision,” StarHub said in a e-mailed response to questions. M1 has invested S$1.6 billion and continues to make “significant network investments,” Chua Hian Hou, a spokesman for M1, said in an e-mailed response.

“Competition is not new to SingTel,” said Michele Batchelor, a spokeswoman for SingTel, the city-state’s biggest phone company. “We are continuously investing in our mobile network.”

MyRepublic expects the number of broadband Internet customers to exceed 25,000, or 1.8 percent of the market, by the end of July, Rodrigues said. MyRepublic is aiming to increase its market share to at least 5 percent and expects its overseas expansion to follow the same growth trajectory.

MyRepublic expects to offer Internet services in New Zealand in September, and expand to Malaysia and Australia next year in cities that have the latest Internet infrastructure, Rodrigues said.

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