4. Extending broadband connectivity in Singapore

Singapore is a city-state located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It consists of Singapore Island and some 60 small islets, with the main island occupying almost all of the combined area. The main island is separated from peninsular Malaysia to the north by the Johor Strait. The southern limits of the state run through the Singapore Strait, where outliers of the Riau-Lingga Archipelago form part of Indonesia (Britannica, 2022[2]).

Singapore has a population of approximately 6 million people as of 2022 (UNDESA, 2022[3]). Urban centres account for almost the entire population (99.8% in 2015) and half of the territory (50.2%, 2015) (European Commission, Joint Research Centre, 2015[4]).

Nearly two-thirds of the main island is less than 15 m above sea level. Bukit Timah Hill, the highest summit, has an elevation of only 162 m and forms a block of rugged terrain in the island's centre (Britannica, 2022[2]). The country is exposed to flash floods due to monsoon rains, which subside relatively quickly (National Library Board, 2019[5]). In any case, Singapore has consistently sought to reduce its vulnerability through coping mechanisms. These include addressing infrastructure deficiencies and instilling a sense of public responsibility to respond to emergencies (UNOCHA, 2021[6]).

Singapore and Brunei Darussalam are analysed as a single cluster in this study and share several commonalities. They are the countries with the highest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in the region, both above the OECD average (see Chapter 1). Singapore had a GDP per capita PPP of 127 564 current international dollars in 2022, ranking first among Southeast Asian (SEA) countries (IMF, 2023[7]). It was followed by Brunei Darussalam at 70 500 current international dollars (IMF, 2023[7]). Singapore and Brunei Darussalam have similar geographic breakdowns between urban and rural areas. As mentioned earlier, Singapore is a city-state, with 99.9% of its population living in an urban area (e.g. an “urban centre”1 or “urban cluster”2) (European Commission, Joint Research Centre, 2015[4]). With 76.3% of its population living in an urban area, Brunei Darussalam is also relatively urbanised among SEA countries (European Commission, Joint Research Centre, 2015[4]).

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) classifies Singapore and Brunei Darussalam as having a “very high” human development (UNDP, 2022[8]). Indicators across longevity, education and income for both countries are high among ASEAN countries (Table ‎4.1). The main difference between the two countries is the type of urbanisation, which in Brunei Darussalam is mostly urban cluster-based (64.1% of urban cluster) and in Singapore is urban centre-based (99.8% of urban centre).

The broadband market in Singapore is characterised by the exceptional circumstance of full mobile and fixed broadband coverage, reaching 100% of the population and 100% of households respectively. Against this background, according to data from national authorities the number of broadband subscriptions rose to 11 million by 2022, with mobile broadband accounting for 86% in 2022 (Figure ‎4.1).3 Mobile broadband subscriptions grew at an average annual rate of 6% over the last decade (2011-22), compared to 1% for fixed subscriptions (Figure ‎4.1). Mobile broadband reached 169.6 subscribers per 100 inhabitants in 2022, the highest in the region and well above the OECD average (127.9 mobile subscribers per 100 inhabitants, 2022) (OECD, 2023[11]).4

Fixed broadband penetration is 27.4 subscribers per 100 inhabitants.5 This is also the highest in the region, although below the OECD average (34.9 subscribers per 100 inhabitants, 2022.). In terms of households that are passed by fixed broadband networks, there are 92.7 residential wired broadband subscriptions per 100 households in December 2022 (IMDA, 2023[12]) (IMDA, 2023[12]).6 Given that each subscription is available to all household members, this figure illustrates the high proportion of inhabitants with access to fixed broadband.

In terms of technology, 4G dominates mobile broadband with 75.4% of connections, followed by 3G with 7.0% of connections and 5G with 16.8% in 2022 (GSMA Intelligence, 2023[14]). Over the last decade (2013-2022), 4G connections have increased at the expense of 3G as users have adopted 4G compatible handsets. Since 2020, this upward trend has been reversed, with the rise in 5G adoption coinciding with the rollout of these networks (Figure ‎4.2). The share of 5G connections has risen sharply since then, reaching a penetration share of 16.8%. This is similar to other countries in the region with high 5G coverage such as Thailand, where 12.9% of mobile broadband connections are 5G in 2022 (GSMA Intelligence, 2023[14]).

The dominant access technology for fixed broadband in Singapore is Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) for virtually all subscriptions in 2022. Between 2010 and 2019, with the deployment of the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (NBN), there was a migration from copper-based technologies, cable modem and digital subscriber line (DSL) to fibre-based technologies. Fixed terrestrial wireless was present in the early years of the migration to fibre, accounting for 5% (FTTH) of subscriptions (2010-13) and then declining to virtually disappear (Figure ‎4.3).

Prices for both mobile and fixed entry-level broadband services have remained largely stable and affordable (Figure ‎4.4, Figure ‎4.10). In 2022, the price of entry-level fixed service (5 GB) was USD PPP 45.5, which is below the regional average of USD PPP 51.6 (ITU, 2023[15]). On the mobile side, the price for entry-level mobile services (70 min + 20 SMS + 500 MB) in 2022 was USD PPP 17.9, slightly above the regional average of USD PPP 15.5 USD PPP (ITU, 2023[15]). In both cases, broadband prices do not differ much from the regional average. However, when prices are calculated as a percentage of the gross national income (GNI) per capita of the country, Singapore’s mobile and fixed prices for entry-level services are the most affordable in the region due to the country’s higher GNI. Mobile prices were 0.3% of GNI per capita in 2022, while fixed prices represented 0.6% GNI per capita, well below the regional average (1.6% (mobile) and 6.2% (fixed) of GNI per capita, respectively) (ITU, 2023[15]).

Singapore liberalised the telecommunications sector in 2000, introducing full market competition in the sector (IMDA, 2000[17]). The limits on the number or type of licences were removed, except for instances where there were physical or resource constraints, in which case licences were awarded on a merit basis. The direct and indirect foreign equity limits for public communication service licences were also lifted (IMDA, 2000[17]). This move to liberalise was influenced by the liberalisation of the communication sector in several other countries around that time and the need to stimulate innovation to meet the increasingly diversified and sophisticated demand for communication services. The liberalisation of the communication sector has attracted global players to provide enterprise solutions (e.g. AT&T, BT, Vodafone, Telstra), satellite communication services (e.g. Inmarsat, Iridium Communications), and Internet exchange services (e.g. BBIX and Equinix). Singapore is also an international connectivity hub, where global digital giants like Meta, Amazon and Google have invested heavily in establishing connectivity in Singapore.

A defining aspect of Singapore’s broadband markets is the Nationwide Broadband Network (NBN), a nationwide shared infrastructure upon which retail operators can offer end-user services. It was conceived as the wired network of the “Next Generation National Infocomms Infrastructure”, under the Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015) master plan (IDA, 2011[18]). The model for building and operating the NBN is structured around the network layers (Figure ‎4.5). The passive infrastructure (including wirelines and ducts) is operated by a Passive Infrastructure Company (NetCo), which provides wholesale wireline access (Layer 1 Open Access). The active infrastructure (including switches and routers) is operated by an Active Infrastructure Company(ies) (OpCo(s)), which provides wholesale bandwidth services (Layer 2 and Layer 3 Open Access). Finally, Retail Service Providers (RSPs) purchase bandwidth connectivity from the OpCo(s) and provide services to end-users.

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) selected the NBN operators to build and operate the NBN network through an open tender process. It named the OpenNet Consortium (later acquired by NetLink Trust) as the appointed NBN NetCo in 2008 and Nucleus Connect as the appointed NBN OpCo in 2009, although other OpCos can provide services in this layer (IDA, 2011[18]). OpenNet was initially a consortium of four businesses (Axia NetMedia Corporation, Singapore Telecommunications Ltd (Singtel), Singapore Press Holdings Ltd and SP Telecommunications Pte Ltd) (IMDA, 2008[20]). In 2011, Singtel established NetLink Trust to hold the passive non-fibre assets (e.g. ducts), supporting OpenNet's fibre network rollout. In 2013, NetLink Trust acquired OpenNet (NetLink Trust, 2023[21]).

In 2017, Singtel decreased its deemed interest in NetLink Trust from 100% to roughly 25% (NetLink Trust, 2017[22]) As of 26 May 2023, Singtel indirectly retains 24.79% (deemed interest) in NetLink Trust through the shares of its wholly-owned subsidiary (Singtel Interactive Pte. Ltd.) (NetLink Trust, 2023, pp. 212-3[23]). Singtel Interactive Pte. Ltd. is the largest shareholder (NetLink Trust, 2023, p. 212[23]). The public held approximately 66.5% of NetLink Trust’s remaining shares (NetLink Trust, 2023, p. 213[23]).

For its part, Temasek Holdings is the largest shareholder of Singtel with just over 50% of shares (Singtel, 2023, p. 269[24]). It is classified as the only “substantial shareholder” considering its direct interest as well as deemed interest based on its subsidiaries and associated companies (Singtel, 2023, p. 269[24]). A Temasek Board member also acts as Chairman of the Singtel Board (Singtel, n.d.[25]; Temasek, n.d.[26]). Similarly, Temasek is listed as a “substantial unitholder” of NetLink Trust through Singtel’s shares in NetLink, as well as shares, or deemed interest, held by other companies in Temasek’s portfolio (NetLink Trust, 2023, p. 213[23]). Nucleus Connect, an OpCo, is a wholly owned subsidiary of StarHub Ltd.(StarHub) but with a separate legal status, board and brand (IMDA, 2009[27]; StarHub, 2022[28]).

StarHub also lists Temasek as a “substantial shareholder”, with 55.87% of shares, as of 1 March 2023, as “deemed interest” (StarHub, 2022, p. 286[28]). This means that other companies under Temasek’s portfolio own shares or have deemed interest. This is primarily through the holdings of its wholly-owned subsidiary, Singapore Technologies Telemedia (Temasek, n.d.[29]). Similarly, Temasek is the largest shareholder of Keppel Corporation, the parent company of M1 Ltd (M1), with 21.12% of shares and 0.23% deemed interest as of 2 March 2023 (Keppel Corporation, 2023, pp. 224, 245[30]).7 Temasek is one of two “substantial shareholders” of Keppel Corporation (Keppel Corporation, 2023, p. 233[30]).

Temasek, an investment holding company, is designated as a “fifth schedule entity” under Singapore’s Constitution, which subjects it to certain obligations (Temasek, n.d.[31]). These include requiring presidential approval for certain actions, such as the appointment or removal of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or members of Temasek’s Board. Presidential approval is also needed when a proposed financial transaction will decrease Temasek’s reserves to below the amount held before the term of the current government (Temasek, n.d.[31]). The Minister for Finance is Temasek’s sole shareholder.

However, there are certain safeguards in place to protect Temasek’s independence. For example, Temasek stipulates that :

Neither the President nor the Government is involved in Temasek’s investment or other business and corporate decisions, except in relation to the President’s role in the protection of Temasek’s reserves. Similarly, Temasek does not direct the business decisions and operations of its portfolio companies. (Temasek, n.d.[32])

The Ministry of Finance also asserts that there is no governmental influence over Temasek’s individual investment decisions, nor is there government representation on Temasek’s board (Ministry of Finance, 2023[33]). The government is involved to establish Temasek’s overall investment mandate and objective; ensure Temasek’s board is competent; and review portfolio risk and allocate government capital across Temasek and two other entities (Ministry of Finance, 2023[33]).

Nevertheless, the government, through Temasek, retains ownership in Singtel and, in turn, NetLink Trust. Similarly, the government, through Temasek, retains ownership through deemed interest in StarHub, and in turn, Nucleus Connect. Therefore, there is a degree of government ownership of both NetLink Trust and Nucleus Connect of the NBN, as well as in three main market players (for fixed and mobile): Singtel, StarHub and M1.

To support the NBN’s rollout, the government provided grants of SGD 250 million (USD 181 million) to Nucleus Connect (OpCo) and SGD 750 million (USD 544 million) to OpenNet (NetCo) to jointly deploy the NBN network nationwide (IMDA, 2009[27]).8 However, Singapore introduced structural and operational separation rules for NBN operators to ensure effective and equal open access downstream, which is explained in more detail in the “Competition” section below.

The NBN shared infrastructure provides the foundation for fixed broadband services in Singapore, especially for the residential market. For the residential market, RSPs provide fixed broadband services to residential users using NBN infrastructure. For the non-residential market, fixed broadband service providers can offer services using the NBN infrastructure, their self-owned fibre network or a third party’s fibre network. Several operators offer retail fixed services to both residential and non-residential end-users.

While information on fixed market shares by operator are unavailable, the main providers of fixed retail services in the country seem to be Singtel, StarHub/MyRepublic and M1, according to desk research and informational interviews, however other providers also offer fixed services on the market. IMDA reported total fixed broadband subscriptions (residential and corporate) as of December 2022 to be 1.5 million (IMDA, 2023[12]).9 Singtel announced 666 000 fixed broadband lines in December 2022, which would account for roughly 40% of the total fixed subscriptions reported by IMDA (Singtel, 2023, p. 10[34]). While not directly comparable with Singtel’s numbers as StarHub/MyRepublic only reports fixed residential subscribers, as of December 2022 it had 578 000 subscribers (StarHub Ltd., 2023, p. 14[35]).10 This suggests it is also an important player. M1 also seems to be present, although data on its fixed broadband subscriptions or subscribers is difficult to obtain.

Four main mobile network operators provide mobile broadband services in the retail market: Singtel, StarHub, M1 and Simba Telecom (formerly TPG Telecom). In addition, there are more than ten mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) in the market, including MyRepublic (using M1’s network), Circles.Life, Zero 1 and RedOne, among others. Singtel, the incumbent operator, leads with around 45.8% of the market based on mobile connections, followed by StarHub with 23.1%, M1 in a close third with 22.9% and Simba Telecom with 7.4% (Figure ‎4.6) (GSMA Intelligence, 2023[14]). Grid Communications holds the remaining 0.8% (GSMA Intelligence, 2023[14]).

According to information from national authorities, all four main mobile operators provide services primarily with their own networks. However, they may still contract wholesale services according to business decisions. For example, mobile operators may use NBN infrastructure to connect mobile base stations.

Both the mobile and fixed markets have seen changes in composition. In the mobile market, Simba Telecom launched commercial services in 2020 and has been gaining subscribers in the past few years (Simba Telecom, 2022[37]). In the fixed market, StarHub Online Pte Ltd acquired a majority stake in MyRepublic Broadband, representing MyRepublic Group’s broadband operations in Singapore in 2022. IMDA approved the acquisition on 9 March 2022 after a thorough competition assessment of relevant markets that would be affected, including both residential and non-residential fixed broadband markets (IMDA, 2022[38]).11 After finding that the acquisition would not substantially lessen competition in any communication market in Singapore, and would not harm public interest, IMDA approved the acquisition without conditions (IMDA, 2022[38]).

Another aspect of market health and development is financial performance and investment by market operators. In Singapore, revenues from all communication services have a slightly decreasing trend over the past decade, according to information provided by national authorities. Annual revenues ranged from a high of SGD 14.1 billion (USD 10.2 billion) in 2010 to a low of SGD 9.5 billion (USD 6.9 billion) in 2018.12 They rebounded to SGD 10 billion (USD 7.3 billion) in 2019, the last year of available data. Total investment in communication services follows a similar slight downward trend, according to information provided by national authorities. The highest investment of SGD 2.1 billion (USD 1.5 billion) occurred in 2010, with the lowest of SGD 969 million (USD 703 million) in 2020, the latest data provided.13

While revenue and investment data are unavailable for the fixed market, GSMA Intelligence data show a similar trend for the mobile market compared to the overall communication sector. Mobile revenues in nominal terms decreased by 10% over 2013-22, from USD 3.6 billion in 2013 to USD 3.2 billion in 2022 (Figure ‎4.7) (GSMA Intelligence, 2023[14]). Compared to other countries in the region, Singapore is ranked sixth in terms of revenues (nominal terms) for the mobile sector in 2022 (GSMA Intelligence, 2023[14]). However, the size of Singapore’s market must be considered with this ranking, as its population limits potential revenue growth in the market. Even so, its nominal revenues rank above countries with higher populations (e.g. Myanmar and Cambodia).

In terms of investment in mobile networks, capital expenditure (Capex) in the country decreased by 23% over the period 2013-22 (GSMA Intelligence, 2023[14]). In nominal terms, Capex fell from USD 594 million in 2013 to USD 459 million in 2022 (GSMA Intelligence, 2023[14]). Regionally, total mobile investment levels (nominally) in Singapore again place it sixth as of 2022, the same ranking as the one based on revenues of the mobile sector.

The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) are the main bodies covering the communication sector in Singapore. MCI develops the government’s national information and communication policies and oversees development of the communication and media sectors, among other areas of focus. For national strategic policies, MCI can provide guidance to IMDA on strategic directions, focus areas and programmes. The Telecommunication Act 1999 (Telecoms Act) grants the MCI Minister certain powers, such as issuing a written order in certain cases (Art. 91-2) and exempting certain persons from any or all provisions of the Telecoms Act (Art. 96) (Government of Singapore, 1999[39]).

IMDA is a statutory board that acts as the regulatory authority with responsibility over the communication and broadcasting sectors in Singapore. Around 40% of communication regulators in OECD countries as of 2022 are similarly converged regulators, with mandates covering both sectors (OECD, 2022[40]). Based on the IMDA Act, IMDA regulates and promotes development of the communication and broadcasting sectors, as well as upholds fair and effective market competition, among other functions (Singapore, 2016[41]).

To effectively perform its functions, IMDA may issue additional instruments that impose legal obligations, such as codes of practice and standards of performance. For example, the Code of Practice for Competition in the Telecommunication and Media Services 2022 sets out a competition framework and “imposes binding legal obligations” on relevant licensees (IMDA, 2022[42]). IMDA is also responsible for licensing as well as spectrum management and makes enforcement and regulatory decisions and policies independently of MCI. IMDA may advise the government on relevant matters relating to the communication and broadcasting sectors (Singapore, 2016[41]).

According to national authorities, IMDA is financed through fees collected from the industry (e.g. licence and spectrum fees) and the national budget from the Ministry of Finance. This is similar to many OECD countries, with roughly half of communication regulators (46%) being funded through a mix of budget from the government and fees collected from industry (33%) (OECD, 2021[43]).

MCI may interact with the functioning of IMDA in several ways. The MCI Minister may provide direction to IMDA in the performance of its duties (Art. 5) (Government of Singapore, 2018[44]). Further, the MCI Minister may request information from IMDA, which must be provided, and may propose a transfer of IMDA’s functions to another body corporate for privatisation (Singapore, 2016[41]).14 IMDA’s 2021-22 Annual report summarises the relationship between MCI and IMDA (“the Authority”) (IMDA, 2022, p. 74[45]):

As a statutory board, the Authority is subjected to the control of its supervisory Ministry, MCI, and is required to follow the policies and instructions issued from time to time by MCI and other government ministries and departments such as the Ministry of Finance (“MOF”). (IMDA, 2022[45])

IMDA may issue codes of practice, standards, directions and advisory guidelines, without MCI approval. However, the MCI Minister must approve regulations (i.e. subsidiary legislation) IMDA may make to carry out the Telecoms Act’s provisions, including regulations relating to the conditions for the grant of licences and spectrum rights, control and regulation of interference, and use of communication equipment, among others (Art. 97) (Government of Singapore, 1999[39]). In cases where a licensee wishes to appeal a decision of IMDA, the licensee may request that IMDA reconsider the matter or make an appeal directly to the MCI Minister (Art. 89) (Government of Singapore, 1999[39]). Further, as noted above, MCI has certain powers that may infringe upon or limit IMDA’s authority in some cases (e.g. the power of exemption, the power of written order under the Telecoms Act). However, IMDA has the clear remit to regulate and monitor the communication sector.

These suggest that MCI may have power to influence IMDA’s functioning, despite the latter’s status as a statutory board. This may limit IMDA’s independence. Both the 2021 Broadband Recommendation on Broadband Connectivity and the 2012 Recommendation of the OECD Council on the Regulatory Policy and Governance advocate for regulatory independence and independent regulators in certain cases, such as when regulating the communication sector (OECD, 2021[1]; OECD, 2012[46]). Singapore could consider measures to ensure IMDA’s independence, such as amending some legislative powers granted to MCI over IMDA. This may help insulate IMDA from political influence and ensure it is equipped to fulfil its mandate.

As the parent ministry, MCI is also involved in appointing the IMDA Board, which provides guidance and advice to IMDA’s management on all matters under IMDA’s purview. The MCI Minister appoints IMDA Board members, Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and Chief Executive (Singapore, 2016[41]). During the appointment process, the minister must assess whether candidates will collectively have the required knowledge, skills and experience to assist IMDA in performing its functions and confirm they do not meet any criteria for disqualification. Criteria for disqualification, as outlined in the IMDA Act, include bankruptcy, imprisonment, holding a judiciary office (e.g. judge), state of mental capacity or being disqualified under other Acts (Singapore, 2016[41]). The term of appointment is three years or less, but Board members may be reappointed (Singapore, 2016[41]).

There are 20 IMDA Board members, which is the maximum allowed by law (Singapore, 2016[41]). These Board Members come from several different organisations and may retain their positions, with the exception being the IMDA Chief Executive (IMDA, 2023[47]). The current Chairperson is from the Ministry of Health, and the current Deputy Chairperson holds positions within MCI and the Prime Minister’s Office (IMDA, 2023[47]). Another Board Member is from the Government Technology Agency, a body under the Prime Minister’s Office (Government of Singapore, 2023[48]; IMDA, 2023[47]). The risk of governance influence may be possible as Board members, especially the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, are from government bodies. According to the IMDA Act, the Chief Executive may not be appointed as either Chairperson or Deputy Chairperson to ensure the Board’s leadership does not overlap with that of IMDA’s.

The MCI Minister’s appointment of IMDA’s Board opens another avenue of possible political influence on IMDA. Additionally, the Board appointment process as outlined in the IMDA Act defines only broad criteria. This could be to allow for flexibility to adapt to the needed skills and expertise for an evolving digital landscape. Nevertheless, this allows for a good deal of discretion on the part of the minister, which could introduce further risk of political influence.

The appointment of IMDA senior management is carried out in alignment with the Public Service Division (PSD)’s broad guidelines for public sector officers across the government (Public Service Division, 2023[49]). However, the appointment process remains somewhat opaque. As IMDA senior leadership manages the organisation’s day-to-day work, the appointment of these positions, as well as importantly that of the Chief Executive’s appointment by the Minister, could be more transparent. This would ensure the process is merit-based and as insulated as possible from undue political influence.

Nevertheless, Singapore’s appointment process by the MCI Minister is similar when compared to OECD countries. In many cases, a governmental or ministerial body appoints the leadership of communication regulators around the OECD (OECD, 2021[43]). Certain measures can help insulate the process from undue influence. These include promoting transparency in the appointment process and enacting a merit-based approach to nominate and appoint leadership, such as through an independent selection panel (OECD, 2021[43]).

Ensuring the independence of IMDA is important given state involvement of key players in the fixed and mobile markets, through Temasek, the investment holding company under the Minister for Finance. In such circumstances, a clearly established independent regulator is key to avoiding conflicts of interest arising when the government acts as both the regulator and the regulated entity.

However, despite these possible risks of political influence, Singapore has a strong track record against political corruption and good governance practices. It ranks highly on several international benchmarks, including the World Justice Project's Rule of Law Index and Chandler’s Good Government Index (Chandler Institute of Governance, 2023[50]; World Justice Project, 2023[51]).

The Telecoms Act (Government of Singapore, 1999[39]) and the IMDA Act (Singapore, 2016[41]) establish the basis for Singapore’s communication regulatory framework. The Telecoms Act gives IMDA the power to grant licences and impose licence conditions (Art. 5) (Government of Singapore, 1999[39]). There are two main types of licences granted for the provision of communication services: a Facilities-Based Operations (FBO) licence and a Services-Based Operations (SBO) licence. An FBO licence allows operators to deploy communication networks, systems or facilities to offer communication services. It is granted on a technology-neutral basis (IMDA, 2021[52]). An SBO licence allows operators to provide communication services (IMDA, 2022[53]). The provision of communication services is included under an FBO licence, meaning a FBO licensee only requires a single licence for all the networks/services it intends to operate/offer (IMDA, 2021[52]). However, should an SBO licensee want to deploy its own network, it would need an FBO licence to replace its prior SBO licence (IMDA, 2021[52]). FBO licences are granted on an individual basis, whereas an SBO licence may be either on an individual or class basis, depending on the service.

FBO licensees that plan to develop large-scale services nationwide may apply to be designated as a Public Telecommunications Licensee (PTL), which grant it provisions to facilitate network installation and maintenance and protect their systems (IMDA, 2021[52]). IMDA may require PTLs to adhere to universal service obligations (IMDA, 2021[52]). NetLink Trust, Singtel and Starhub are designated as PTLs (IMDA, 2023[54]). The term of the FBO licence is 15 years and 20 years for FBOs designated as PTLs (IMDA, 2021[52]). These two FBO licence types may be renewed for an additional period as decided by IMDA (IMDA, 2021[52]).

An SBO licence covers several scenarios, including leasing network elements from an FBO to provide its own communication services, reselling an FBO's communication services to a third party, or deploying networks and providing communication services to third parties residing within their property boundaries (IMDA, 2022[53]). An individual SBO licence is required to provide services such as international simple resale (voice and data traffic), public Internet access services and mobile virtual network operation, among others (IMDA, 2022[53]). On the other hand, several communication services fall under the class SBO licence category, including Internet-based voice and data services, call-back services and public payphone services, among others (IMDA, 2022[53]). SBO individual licences have a validity of five years, with the possibility of renewal (IMDA, 2022[53]). This is a relatively short licence validity and requires service providers to reapply every five years. SBO class licences do not require renewals after being granted (IMDA, 2022[53]).

According to the Telecoms Act, any licence may include requirements related to interconnection, sharing of facilities, sharing or trading of spectrum, and compliance to applicable codes of practice and standards of performance (Government of Singapore, 1999[39]). IMDA must approve equipment connected to the network or belonging to a licensee before use (Government of Singapore, 1999[39]). The Act also establishes certain rights-of-way provisions to facilitate network installations and contains provisions to prevent damage to cables (Government of Singapore, 1999[39]).

In addition, the Act grants IMDA the power to issue codes of practice and performance standards, directions to licensees and advisory guidelines concerning any aspect of communication (Government of Singapore, 1999[39]). IMDA has issued several codes of practice related to the communication sector, which include the Code of Practice for Competition in the Provision of Telecommunication and Media Services 2022, the Code of Practice for Info-communication Facilities in Buildings and the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network NetCo Interconnection Code.

In 2006, Singapore launched its Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015) masterplan. One key pillar aimed to establish “next generation national infocomm infrastructure” (Next Gen NII) (IMDA, 2006[55]). Under the Next Gen NII, the NBN was set forth to foster deployment of high-speed broadband across the country, as discussed above (IDA, 2006[56]). The Next Gen NII also included a mobile component to deploy wireless broadband in the north, east and west of the country (IDA, 2006[56]).

In 2015, Singapore announced the “Infocomm Media 2025 (ICM2025)”, expanding on the iN2015 Masterplan. The ICM2025 is organised around three themes: i) leveraging big data and advanced communication and computational technologies; ii) fostering a risk-taking and experimental environment; and iii) connecting people using digital tools (MCI, 2015[57]). In addition, supporting broad policy aims to foster high-quality communication networks in the country, IMDA has included network rollout requirements for certain spectrum bands. For example, operators receiving 5G spectrum (i.e. 2.1 GHz, 3.5 GHz bands) must reach 50% coverage of their 5G standalone networks within two years and nationwide coverage within five years (IMDA, 2021[58]).

Building on previous plans, Singapore launched the Digital Connectivity Blueprint in June 2023 (MCI, IMDA, 2023[59]). The Blueprint aims to enable Singapore’s entire “digital infrastructure stack” (MCI, IMDA, 2023[59]). Two of the Blueprint’s five strategic priorities relate specifically to connectivity. One priority aims to double submarine cable landings within the next 10 years to further expand and diversify Singapore’s submarine cable network. Another priority sets a goal of 10 Gbps domestic connectivity within the next five years (MCI, IMDA, 2023[59]). Singapore plans to support this second priority through actions such as facilitating a tenfold increase in the NBN’s bandwidth and allocating spectrum to support faster Wi-Fi networks and 5G Standalone (SA) networks (MCI, IMDA, 2023[59]). Resilience, security and sustainability of Singapore’s digital infrastructure are also included in the Blueprint’s strategic priorities.

The market structure presented above allows for an initial assessment of market competition in Singapore. In the retail mobile market, Singtel holds 45.8% of mobile connections, followed by StarHub with 23.1%, M1 with 22.9%, Simba Telecom with 7.4% and Grid Communications with 0.8% as of Q4 2022 (Figure ‎4.6) (GSMA Intelligence, 2023[14]). Based on these market shares, the mobile market has an Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI) of 3 214, driven in large part by Singtel’s market share. Singtel, StarHub, M1 and Simba Telecom operate their own networks. Several MVNOs also operate in the market. The presence of four MNOs, one of which recently launched service (Simba Telecom), and several MVNOs seems to suggest a sufficient level of competition, despite Singtel’s market share.

While, fixed market share data is unavailable, Singtel, StarHub/MyRepublic and M1 also seem to be important players in the fixed retail market. Other providers also offer fixed services. The barriers to entry are low to offer fixed broadband services (residential and non-residential), as any new entrant can contract wholesale services and bandwidth capacity from NetLink Trust and any OpCo. This puts the new entrant on a level playing field with respect to network capacity and service.

In its 2022 competition assessment prior to StarHub’s acquisition of MyRepublic, IMDA reached similar conclusions for the residential fixed broadband market. It found the acquisition unlikely to affect competition due to several market characteristics. In addition to low barriers of entry, a number of providers offered residential fixed broadband services (more than five apart from the entities involved in the acquisition). Moreover, the non-residential fixed broadband market had more than 30 service providers (IMDA, 2022[60]). These conclusions supported IMDA’s decision to allow the acquisition to proceed without conditions (IMDA, 2022[60]).

While competition at the retail level in the fixed market seems strong, the competition at the infrastructure level is important to consider. This is relevant given the NBN’s integral role in the fixed market as the primary provider at the infrastructure level for residential fixed broadband subscribers. As shown in Figure ‎4.5 and noted above, only one NetCo deploys, maintains and operates the passive infrastructure (e.g. dark fibre, ducts). To ensure effective open access of the fixed market, IMDA has imposed structural separation on the appointed NBN NetCo (i.e. NetLink Trust). This separation ensures that the NetCo is independent from, and not under any effective control of, any of its downstream operators (IMDA, n.d.[61]). In 2017, Singtel sold approximately 75% of its shares in NetLink Trust (NetLink Trust, 2023[21]). This was to comply with the structural separation requirements put in place by IMDA. In addition, NetLink Trust’s interconnection offer must comply with the Interconnection Code and receive IMDA approval (IMDA, 2020[62]).

IMDA also imposed an operational separation on the appointed NBN OpCo (i.e. Nucleus Connect), which is responsible for the NBN’s active infrastructure. The appointed NBN OpCo may be fully owned by its downstream operating units, but is required to treat all RSPs, including affiliated operators, the same (IMDA, n.d.[61]). Nucleus Connect is just one OpCo of the NBN’s active infrastructure layer and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of StarHub Ltd. According to NetLink Trust reports from 2017, there were 13 OpCos (NetLink Trust, 2017[63]). Although the total may have changed since 2017, the OpCo layer remains dynamic according to national authorities. Such safeguards on the appointed NetCo and OpCo seem to limit harmful impacts on overall competition.

The IMDA Act and the Telecoms Act establish authority to carry out the regulatory tools mentioned above to uphold competition. These acts give IMDA the authority to maintain and promote fair and efficient market conduct and effective competition in the media and communication markets. While the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) is the general competition authority, IMDA has the mandate to oversee and govern competition of the communication and media sectors.

Under its mandate, IMDA issued the Code of Practice for Competition in the Provision of Telecom Services in 2010. It was revised in 2022 into a unified competition management framework, covering the communication and media sectors – the Code of Practice for Competition in the Provision of Telecommunication and Media Services (the Code) (IMDA, 2022[42]). The Code is legally binding and aims to maintain effective and sustainable competition as well as safeguard consumer interests in the communication, broadcasting and newspaper markets (IMDA, 2022[42]). At the time of writing, IMDA is consulting on advisory guidelines on collective dominance under Section 8 of the Code, intended to clarify how abuse of collective dominance in communication and media markets is treated (IMDA, 2023[64]).

The Code classifies a business as a "Dominant Entity" in either one of two scenarios. In the first, a business operates facilities to provide communication services that are sufficiently difficult or costly for a new entrant to replicate, creating a significate barrier to entry by an efficient competitor. In the second, it has the ability to exercise significant market power in any market in which it operates.

A Dominant Entity is subject to various ex ante obligations under the Code. These include obligations to provide non-discriminatory services at fair and reasonable prices and conditions, allow the resale of end-user services and submit tariffs to IMDA for approval (IMDA, 2022[42]). In addition, Dominant Entities are subject to ex post competition regulations prohibiting abuse of a dominant position and anti-competitive conduct (IMDA, 2022[42]). Today, NetLink Trust Pte Ltd and Singtel are classified as Dominant Entities. Singtel, for example, must submit its Reference Interconnection Order (RIO) to IMDA for approval, which is published and made available for public consultation (IMDA, 2023[65]). Non-dominant entities are not subject to such obligations; however they must publish tariffs, along with terms and conditions of standard services to increase transparency for the customer (IMDA, 2023[66]).

All communication licensees must interconnect with other licensees and submit a copy of all interconnection agreements to IMDA (IMDA, 2022[42]). Operators are encouraged to conclude these agreements through commercial negotiations, but IMDA has additional provisions to ensure interconnection with dominant licensees. Specifically, IMDA requires dominant licensees to provide the following three interconnection options: i) according to an IMDA-approved RIO offer; ii) on the same terms as an existing interconnection agreement; or iii) through an individualised interconnection agreement (IMDA, 2022[42]). In this regard, IMDA has detailed requirements and pricing provisions for RIOs, as well as dispute resolution mechanisms in case no agreement on interconnection can be reached (IMDA, 2022[42]). In particular, given the critical nature of NBN infrastructure for provision of fixed services, the NetCo Interconnection Code and OpCo Interconnection Code specifies the terms, prices and conditions of NetLink Trust’s (NBN NetCo) and Nucleus Connect’s (NBN OpCo) interconnection offers (IMDA, 2020[62]; IMDA, 2020[67]).

The Code also contains provisions governing mergers and acquisitions involving communication licensees. Parties must obtain IMDA approval where an acquisition would result in an acquiring party obtaining between 12% and 30%, or 30% or more voting shares/voting power in a communication licensee (IMDA, 2022[42]). IMDA will analyse the potential acquisition’s impact on competition, or the development of future competition, in any communication market. In cases where the proceeding is expected to substantially lessen competition or is in the public interest to deny, IMDA may reject the request. IMDA may also approve in part or in full, or with conditions designed to reduce anti-competitive harm or effect or address public interest concerns (IMDA, 2022[42]).

For StarHub Online Pte Ltd’s acquisition of a majority interest in MyRepublic Broadband Pte Ltd in 2022, the IMDA conducted a competition assessment to analyse the potential impact the proposed acquisition may have on relevant markets. The acquisition was approved after IMDA concluded the acquisition was unlikely to substantially lessen competition in any communication market in Singapore, and the absence of public interest concerns (IMDA, 2022[38]). Ensuring that the regulatory authority can approve or deny merger or acquisition proceedings, or impose conditions, is generally considered to be best practice in the OECD.

Overall, the competition regulatory framework in Singapore seems robust. There is a mechanism to determine and classify dominant entities and a framework to consider and approve business consolidation proceedings. Further, IMDA has several regulatory tools, which it has previously employed, to uphold the competition framework. For example, IMDA publishes its enforcement decisions in cases where licensees violated IMDA’s licences and codes of practice, including the Code of Practice for Competition in the Provision of Telecommunication and Media Services (IMDA, 2023[68]). IMDA has a clear mandate to regulate on competition issues in the communication sector, and with little overlap seen with the general competition authority.

Singapore's regulatory framework includes different measures to promote and foster investment in communication networks. IMDA has aimed to promote investment and ease network deployment for several years. Indeed, one motivation behind the NBN was to overcome barriers to deploy fibre network infrastructure nationwide. The government supported the NBN’s initial network deployment by providing SGD 250 million (USD 181 million) to Nucleus Connect and SGD 750 million (USD 544 million) to OpenNet as investment funding to jointly deploy the NBN network (IMDA, 2009[27]).15

IMDA also imposed open access requirements to ensure that fixed service providers can access passive and active infrastructure at non-discriminatory prices, terms and conditions. Likely given the importance of the continued investment by NetLink Trust – the NBN NetCo – to maintain and upgrade its passive fibre infrastructure, it is the only operator regulated under a “Regulated Asset Base regime” (NetLinkNBN, 2022[69]). This allows NetLink to recoup its investments and operating expenses and receive a set rate of return for its fibre assets, as regulated by IMDA (NetLinkNBN, 2022[69]).

Singapore also encourages infrastructure sharing to reduce the cost of investment. The Code of Practice for Competition generally does not obligate licensees to share their communication infrastructure with other licensees (IMDA, 2022[42]). However, IMDA may require sharing of communication infrastructure it deems as “critical support infrastructure” or an “essential resource” (IMDA, 2022[42]). IMDA, for example, has designated mobile radio systems in tunnels, wiring in buildings, ducts, manholes, poles and towers as critical support infrastructure (IMDA, 2022[42]). Licensees typically negotiate their contracts for infrastructure sharing, but IMDA can intervene if an agreement cannot be reached. As one example, Singtel’s RIO, currently under consultation, stipulates that Singtel must offer access to essential support facilities, such as access to ducts and manholes (IMDA, 2023[65]). In addition, the open access requirements noted above can be considered a type of mandated infrastructure sharing, whereby NetLink Trust must offer certain services related to its passive fibre infrastructure network to all requesting qualified parties. Apart from NBN, other fixed operators – such as those providing services with their own networks to non-residential customers – may invest jointly in network infrastructure, with IMDA monitoring these co-investments to ensure no damage to competition.

On the mobile side, given that each MNO has its own business strategy, commercial goals and deployment plans, IMDA has said it will not impose shared requirements at the network-wide level. It will thus maintain the existing regulatory framework, which encourages private operators to voluntarily make commercial agreements. However, there is a clear example of co-investment on the mobile side. In 2020, IMDA selected a consortium of two competing operators, StarHub and M1, to obtain 3.5 GHz and millimetre wave spectrum rights to deploy a national 5G network (IMDA, 2023[70]). Through the consortium, StarHub and M1 announced plans to jointly build and operate a 5G network. Cited benefits include optimising costs of both infrastructure and spectrum (StarHub, 2020[71]).

Singapore also supports investment by removing restrictions on foreign direct investment. Other than the requirement that an applicant for an FBO licence must be incorporated under the Singapore Companies Act, there are no restrictions on foreign control or ownership of operators of communication services (IMDA, 2021[52]).

Licence fees are an important factor when it comes to infrastructure investment decisions. FBO licensees and licensees offering public mobile data services are subject to an annual license fee according to the sum of the following (IMDA, 2021[52]):

  • For annual gross turnover (AGTO) of up to SGD 50 million (USD 36 million), an annual fee of SGD 80 000 (USD 58 013) applies.

  • If AGTO is above SGD 50 million up to SGD 100 million (USD 73 million), an additional license fee is added at 0.8% of the amount above SGD 50 million (USD 36 million).

  • If AGTO is above SGD 100 million (USD 73 million), an additional licence fee is added at 1% license fee on the excess above SGD 100 million (USD 73 million).16

For FBOs designated as PTLs, the annual license fees for the first SGD 50 million (USD 36 million) in AGTO are higher, at SGD 200 000 (USD 145 033). However, the percentage of additional licence fees according to higher AGTO (i.e. 0.8% and 1%) is the same as listed in the paragraph above (IMDA, 2021[52]).17 Annual licence fees also apply to SBOs, but these are lower than FBOs (IMDA, 2022[53]).

Licensees using spectrum must also pay for spectrum use. Fees for long-term use of spectrum are classified into two types: i) application and processing; and ii) frequency management. Application and processing fees are a one-time charge, payable at the time of assignment (IMDA, 2022[72]). Frequency management fees are payable annually to cover IMDA’s operating costs of ensuring the safe use of frequency (IMDA, 2022[72]). For public mobile services, the application fee per frequency is SGD 300 (USD 218) and the management fee is SGD 7 700 (USD 5 584) per 5 MHz (IMDA, 2022[72]).18 These appear to be set based on cost recovery. Annual spectrum fees, or another form of annual regulatory fee, are seen in some other OECD countries, and are often set at levels to recoup administrative costs (OECD, 2022[73]).

In addition, mobile operators in Singapore also often pay substantial assignment fees for the right to use mobile spectrum. For example, in the most recent auction of spectrum in the 2.1 GHz band, StarHub/M1 paid SGD 52.5 million (USD 38 million) for 25 MHz; Singtel paid SGD 65 million (USD 47 million) for 25 MHz; and Simba Telecom (TPG Telecom) paid SGD 31 million (USD 22 million) for 10 MHz (IMDA, 2023[74]).19 This is just one example, as auction fees depend on several factors, such as the demand for the spectrum band in question and its characteristics. Auctions are considered best practice around the OECD in cases where demand exceeds supply, as well-designed auctions allow the parties that will use it most efficiently to obtain the spectrum (OECD, 2022[73]).

Considering the overall level of fees with operators primarily being required to pay only licence and spectrum fees, these do not seem to be set at levels that place an unreasonable burden on investment. However, given the graduated scale of FBO licence fees, this must be monitored based on the actual fees that apply to the main operators in the country.

As mentioned in the “Market structure” section, total investment in communication services, reported by national authorities, and mobile investment specifically, based on GSMA Intelligence data, showed a slight decreasing trend in past years. Mobile investment, in nominal terms, places Singapore in the bottom half of the region (sixth in 2022) (GSMA Intelligence, 2023[14]). However, this simple ranking hides differences between countries that may affect the amount of investment required to deploy and maintain high-quality networks. For example, Singapore has a much smaller geography for network deployment. This means the needed investment to maintain and upgrade its networks is likely much lower than in countries with more area to cover. In addition, Singapore has been a frontrunner to deploy 5G networks. This suggests that mobile operators are indeed investing at sufficient levels to deploy and upgrade high-quality networks. Mobile operators may also be able to leverage the NBN’s fixed infrastructure (e.g. to connect mobile base stations), which is likely less costly than managing their own infrastructure.

On the fixed side, the NBN has helped decrease infrastructure investment costs and deploy high-quality fibre infrastructure in the country. Singapore will embark on a nationwide upgrade of the existing fibre-based NBN, in partnership with the industry, to facilitate a ten-fold increase in speed in the next five years, as part of Singapore’s Digital Connectivity Blueprint. Broadband speeds of up to 10 Gbps, alongside Wi-Fi 6E and its 5G Standalone networks, will provide end-to-end 10 Gbps connectivity. Singapore aims to begin the upgrade in mid-2024 (MCI, IMDA, 2023[59]). Singapore’s regulatory framework, together with the several mechanisms in place to foster investment, seem to largely be functioning well.

Innovation seems to be a high priority for Singapore, as evidenced by aspects of its regulatory framework and several governmental programmes aiming to foster innovation. One way to promote innovation through the regulatory framework is to adopt technology-neutral approach. In Singapore, the Code of Practice for Competition in the Provision of Telecommunication and Media Services establishes that regulatory requirements should aim to be technology-neutral, where possible (IMDA, 2022[42]). Based on information from national authorities, the SBO licence takes a technology-neutral approach and does not dictate the technology of the service to be provided. However, spectrum licences are not technology-neutral.

As a concrete example of the country’s efforts to foster innovation, Singapore has promoted 5G networks and services in several ways over the past years. In 2017, under its technical and market trial frameworks, IMDA waived frequency fees to test equipment, conduct research and development (R&D), and trial 5G networks and services (IMDA, 2023[75]). In 2019, IMDA issued the 5G call for proposal (CFP), kicking off the process to assign 5G spectrum in the 3.5 GHz and millimetre wave bands, which were assigned the following year (IMDA, 2023[70]). In 2021, IMDA assigned additional spectrum in the 2.1 GHz band, which was refarmed from 3G use, to support 5G deployments (IMDA, 2023[74]). These actions supported Singapore’s early deployment of 5G networks. Singtel reported 95% nationwide standalone 5G coverage as of July 2022, while StarHub and M1 announced 95% of nationwide outdoor coverage at the end of 2022 (Singtel, 2022[76]; StarHub, 2022[77]; M1, 2022[78]). In addition, Simba Telecom reported its target to achieve 60% outdoor 5G coverage by the end of 2023 (Tuas Limited, 2023[79]).

In 2019, to stimulate uptake of 5G services, IMDA established a 5G Innovation Programme to trial use cases. The programme aimed to promote the trial, research and development of 5G-based solutions across six priority areas: i) maritime; ii) urban mobility; iii) smart estates; iv) industry 4.0; v) consumer applications; and vi) government applications (IMDA, 2023[80]). Building on these efforts, IMDA established an additional fund of SGD 30 million (USD 22 million) in 2021 for commercialisation and uptake of 5G solutions (IMDA, 2021[81]).20

IMDA also continues to co-operate with industry to develop human resources for 5G, open 5G testbeds and support R&D (IMDA, 2023[80]). In addition, Singapore is already looking towards 6G and launched the “Future Communications Connectivity” 6G Lab with a local university in 2022, reportedly the first in Southeast Asia (SUTD, 2022[82]). The 6G Lab is part of the Future Communications Research and Development Programme, which has SGP 70 million (USD 51 million) in funding (SUTD, 2022[82]).21

Together, these actions seem to have succeeded in supporting innovative new services and network deployment in Singapore, as evidenced by the near-nationwide coverage of 5G networks. Its programmes to support industry, for instance through the 5G funds, as well as the trial licences, also help support adoption and commercialisation of services to meet real-life use cases.

The public initiative to build nationwide networks has been driving broadband deployment in Singapore since the late 1990s. The first national broadband network, Singapore ONE under the IT2000 Masterplan, aimed at positioning Singapore as a global IT hub and “Intelligent Island”. Singapore ONE was based on copper-based technologies, DSL and cable modem. With the Intelligent Nation 2015 ("iN2015") Masterplan, this network evolved into the nationwide FTTH NBN, introduced above (IDA, 2010[83]). These initiatives demonstrate how Singapore invests strategically ahead of demand to provide high-quality digital connectivity to drive the digital economy. Launched in 2008-09, the NBN reached 100% fibre coverage of premises (residential and non-residential) in 2013 (IMDA).

The NBN, with a ring backbone section and a final fibre-to-the-building section, was designed with a technology-agnostic strategy to support fibre-based access technologies and wavelengths (passive optical network, e.g. GPON, and active optical network, e.g. ITU-T G.652D optical fibres). The NBN network reaches all premises via fibre, allowing RSPs to provide fixed broadband services without deploying additional infrastructure by contracting wholesale services over this network. Today, RSPs offer competitively priced GPON-based broadband services ranging from 500 megabits per second (Mbps) to 2 gigabits per second (Gbps), with most offering 1 Gbps service plans (MCI, IMDA, 2023[59]). Moreover, the NBN encourages deployment of wireless networks, fixed and mobile, by providing backhaul connectivity to access nodes. In particular, the full coverage of the NBN FTTH network greatly facilitates deployment of small cells for high-frequency wireless networks, such as 5G and Wi-Fi 6E.

In terms of mobile networks, 3G was introduced almost 20 years ago and 4G networks were rolled out in the mid-2010s, reaching 100% population coverage in 2014 (IMDA). Operators are expected to stop providing 3G services by the end of July 2024, making more spectrum available for 5G services (IMDA, 2023[84]) (IMDA, 2023[84]). In 2020, the Singapore government announced the final award of two 5G licences to Singtel and a joint venture consortium between Starhub and M1. The two licensees were expected to deploy a standalone 5G network by 2021, cover at least half of Singapore by the end of 2022 and complete nationwide deployment by 2025. In 2021 IMDA made more spectrum available for 5G, thus facilitating a third 5G standalone network. According to the GSMA, 5G coverage reached 96.5% of the population in 2022 (GSMA Intelligence, 2023[14]) (GSMA Intelligence, 2023[14]) (Figure ‎4.8). Additionally, IMDA, in collaboration with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, will expand coverage in port waters. Together, they will establish the world's first and largest public 5G maritime test bed to trial, innovate and commercialise use cases such as automated vessel movement and remote piloting (IMDA, 2022[85]).

In terms of other wireless networks, the Wireless@SG initiative was launched in December 2006 to accelerate deployment of high-speed wireless broadband and promote the wireless broadband lifestyle among Singapore's citizens and residents. The programme uses a federated model, where Wireless@SG access points enable seamless roaming across the Wireless@SG hotspots deployed by different operators. These are commercially supported by building owners and Wireless@SG operators. IMDA ensures consistent user experience by stipulating standards for identity management, login and security (IMDA, 2023[86]). The network has a coverage of 5 962 hotspots provided by StarHub, M1 and Singtel (December 2022) (IMDA, 2023[87]).

MCI and IMDA foresee seamless end-to-end connectivity between outdoor and indoor environments for the NBN (MCI, IMDA, 2023[59]). To this end, Singapore plans to allocate spectrum both to enable faster Wi-Fi networks and to enhance performance and support enterprise adoption of 5G SA networks. In addition, while the NBN has supported the country's growing demand for teleworking and home learning in recent years, MCI and IMDA are planning a tenfold increase in bandwidth. They have already announced plans to work with the communication industry to achieve broadband speeds of up to 10 Gbps (Yuan, 2023[88]).

In terms of international connectivity, Singapore has 220 terabits per second (Tbps) of equipped capacity as of 2022 (ITU, 2023[15]). This equates to 54% of the region’s international capacity, making it SEA’s international connectivity hub. Data show that Singapore's international equipped bandwidth increased significantly in recent years, increasing fivefold between 2018 and 2022 (Figure ‎4.9) (ITU, 2023[15]). The used capacity of Singapore’s Internet exchanges, although much lower at 40.3 Tbps (2022) (18% of equipped capacity, 2021), is also the highest in the region (ITU, 2023[15]).

Singapore's international connectivity is provided by 39 submarine cable systems, 28 extra-regional and 11 intra-regional (13 of which are planned between 2023 and 2026). This makes it one of the world's leading submarine cable hubs in terms of number of cables landed and total capacity. These systems provide connectivity primarily to the East and Southeast Asia regions but also to the rest of the world through long-haul systems such as SeaMeWe 3, 4 and 5 (Table ‎4.3) (TeleGeography, 2023[89]).

At the intra-SEA level, Singapore is connected to 11 regional cable systems, of which 8 are exclusively between Indonesia and Singapore. Taking all cables together, Singapore is connected by 19 submarine cable systems to Indonesia, 13 to the Philippines, 12 to Malaysia, 10 to Thailand, 6 to Viet Nam and 4 each to Myanmar and Brunei Darussalam; the only countries in the region not directly connected to Singapore are Cambodia and the land-locked Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Table ‎4.2) (TeleGeography, 2023[89]). These connections make Singapore the hub for international connectivity in the SEA region.

Increasing international connectivity capacity is a strategic priority for the coming years. This priority is in line with Singapore's approach to economic development, which focuses on international openness, including in the digital economy. To this end, Singapore authorities are committed to providing space and resources to double the number of submarine cable landings over the next ten years. This will allow operators to further expand and diversify the submarine cable network. They also plan to help deploy LEO satellite services by ensuring sufficient spectrum resources for satellite systems and developing business-friendly frameworks and policies (MCI, IMDA, 2023[59]).

According to information from Packet Clearing House, Singapore has nine Internet exchange points (Table ‎4.4) (PCH, 2023[90]). The two IXPs with the largest number of participants are Equinix Internet Exchange Singapore and the Singapore Internet Exchange (SGIX) (PCH, 2023[90]). Equinix® is a digital infrastructure provider (Equinix, 2023[91]) while SGIX as a not-for-profit organisation founded in 2009 with 11 members from all levels of the industry, including national telecom operators, international telecom operators, Internet service providers, and content and gaming providers. SGIX provides services on a cost-recovery basis and aims to promote efficient exchange of Internet traffic in Singapore and improve network performance for all peering members while lowering overall interconnectivity costs (IMDA, 2023[92]).

The massive deployment of broadband networks in Singapore is accompanied by a high Internet penetration rate, reaching 97% of the population (2021) (ITU, 2023[15]), a figure well above the regional median (68%) (2021) (ITU, 2023[15]). There is no geographical disparity within Singapore, as the entire national territory is urban and covers a small land area. The gender gap is 0.3 percentage points in favour of men (2021) (ITU, 2023[15]). However, there is a digital divide by age. The percentage of people aged 60 and over using the Internet is high (78%), but the rate is 20 points lower than for younger age groups (99% for 18-39 age groups and 98% for 40-59 age groups (2022) (IMDA, 2023[93]).

The supply-side reasons for the absence of a digital divide lie in the ubiquitous coverage of broadband services (see above) and their good quality (see below), as well as their affordability. Prices for broadband services in Singapore are the most affordable in the region, at 0.25% of monthly GNI per capita for mobile services and 0.64% for fixed services (2022) (ITU, 2023[15]). In both cases, prices are well below the affordability target of less than 2% of GNI per capita for basic broadband services set by the Broadband Commission in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, 2022[94]). At between 0.4-0.8% of GNI per capita, fixed broadband prices in Singapore have remained affordable over the past decade (2010-22) (Figure ‎4.10) (ITU, 2023[15]). Mobile broadband affordability is also stable, at around 0.3% of GNI in recent years (2018-22) (Figure ‎4.10) (ITU, 2023[15]). As for the access devices, the reference price of a smartphone is USD 21.90 (nominal prices) (2022) (Tarifica, 2023[95]), which represents 0.4% of GNI per capita, PPP (current international USD) (2022).22 These data suggest that neither the price of broadband services nor the access devices appear to be a hurdle for broadband adoption.

On the demand side, the data show a high level of digital literacy among the Singaporean population. More than three-quarters (81%) of the population has the most common ability to “check the reliability of information found on line” (2021) (ITU, 2023[15]). Meanwhile, 61% of the population has the less common ability to “find, download, install and configure software”. While lower, this percentage still exceeds the percentage of the population with the most common ability in the next highest digital literacy countries, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam (2021) (ITU, 2023[15]). Data on digital literacy are not available for older age groups so it is not possible to infer its influence on age and the age gap.

However, according to the IMDA Annual Survey on Infocomm Usage in Households 2022, the two main reasons for not having Internet connection at home were lack of interest or need to use the Internet; and lack of knowledge, skills or confidence. In terms of business digital technology adoption and according to the IMDA Digital Acceleration Index Study in Businesses in 2022 (IMDA, 2023[96]), the top three obstacles faced by Singapore businesses to digital transformation were “financial resources”, “cultural resistance” and “integrating new technology”.

The Singaporean authorities have acted in several areas to facilitate network deployment and make sufficient spectrum available to the market. They have also launched several initiatives to narrow the gaps in broadband penetration, address supply- and demand-side hurdles, and bridge the digital divide. The main ones are described below.

The Telecoms Act (Part 3) provides right-of-way to licensees to provide any communication service or installation of any communication system. Specifically, it authorises public communication licensees to enter land or buildings under certain conditions. It also establishes a mechanism for authorities to help resolve disputes (Government of Singapore, 1999[39]). Moreover, IMDA has issued the Code of Practice for Info-communication Facilities in Buildings to help with installation and operation of communication facilities on land or in buildings (IMDA, 2023[97]).

The Code of Practice for Competition (IMDA, 2022[42]) sets out the access to the passive infrastructures owned by NetLink Trust and Singtel according to the NetLink Trust's Interconnection Offer and Singtel's Reference Interconnection Offer.

Moreover, there is a whole-of government initiative to minimise land use and road opening (“dig-once”) called the Common Service Duct (CSD) framework. CSD is a common set of ducts and manholes that may be singly or jointly built, owned and maintained by PTLs, designated to serve an area with limited access or road openings. CSDs are designated for shared use by multiple Facilities-based Licensees to house telecommunication cables for deployment of telecommunication networks.

The CSD framework is also regulated under the Code of Practice for Competition. The code provides that IMDA will designate a PTL to be the CSD owner and operator (“Designated CSD Owner”). IMDA has designated NetLink Trust for this role as it is seen as the neutral-passive infrastructure network operator. NetLink must lease the passive infrastructure at wholesale, non-discriminatory and cost-based terms to any licensee, according to a Reference Interconnection Offer. All other PTLs may choose to be co-owner(s) of the ducts. The Designated CSD Owner shall be fully responsible for the operation and maintenance of the manholes, and the Designated CSD Owner and co-owner(s), if any, shall maintain its own ducts or may jointly appoint a single party to maintain them. The Designated CSD Owner shall set aside additional duct capacity of no less than 20% of its own duct requirement for leasing to Facilities-based Licensees (“Set-aside Duct”). They should first approach the CSD Owner for CSD services (IMDA, 2023[98]).

The Telecoms Law authorises IMDA to manage spectrum and grant licences for spectrum use (Government of Singapore, 1999[39]). IMDA also prescribes the basis for restricting participation of certain persons in the spectrum allocation process and revoking spectrum rights (Government of Singapore, 1999[39]). In addition, it has the remit to develop the Radio Spectrum Master Plan, which details its spectrum assignment plans, spectrum policies and technological trends in spectrum use (IMDA, 2023[99]). At the time of writing, Singapore is currently updating the Radio Spectrum Master Plan (IMDA, 2023[99]). The Spectrum Management Handbook provides further information on IMDA’s spectrum management activities, assignment policies and application procedures (IMDA, 2022[72]).

Spectrum can be assigned though either an auction, tender (“beauty contest”) or direct assignment approach, or in any combination thereof (Government of Singapore, 1999[39]). Auctions are the most common assignment approach for spectrum in high demand, such as for mobile services. However, IMDA has also employed a beauty contest approach in recent assignment proceedings. For example, in the 2019 5G Call for Proposal, IMDA selected winning bidders based on submitted proposals (IMDA, 2023[70]). According to national authorities, IMDA took this approach due to the perceived importance of driving 5G network rollout. IMDA returned to an auction approach to assign spectrum in the 2.1 GHz band (IMDA, 2023[74]). As noted above, well-designed spectrum auctions are generally considered to be best practice around OECD countries as they assign the licence to the bidder that will use it most efficiently (OECD, 2022[73]).

According to national authorities, spectrum licences for mobile services last for 15 years. Upon expiry of spectrum rights, IMDA will typically consult industry on the policy and regulatory framework for issuing or renewing the rights. While 15 years is rather short, the main issue is whether operators have enough regulatory certainty to ensure continued access to the spectrum needed to operate their networks. Therefore, IMDA’s approach to consult with operators before spectrum rights expire is especially important to ensure operators continue to operate, maintain and upgrade their networks.

Spectrum trading is permitted with IMDA approval (Government of Singapore, 1999[39]). While IMDA has considered spectrum sharing, challenges may exist due to the country’s small geographic area. For example, dynamic spectrum sharing to allow coexistence of 5G and fixed satellite services was deemed unfeasible due to Singapore’s geography (IMDA, 2019[100]).

Adequate assignment of mobile spectrum is important, especially to support deployment of high-quality mobile networks. Singapore has assigned several spectrum bands across low, medium and high bands in a timely fashion, which has no doubt supported deployment of next-generation networks. It has assigned spectrum in the 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz, 2500 MHz, 3500 GHz, 26 GHz and 28 GHz bands. It has also designed assignment processes to achieve certain policy objectives, such as competition and network deployment aims. For example, in past assignment procedures, Singapore has examples of reserving spectrum for new entrants, establishing spectrum caps, and setting coverage obligations for winning bidders. On average, MNOs hold around 1 000 MHz each. However, Simba Telecom, as a new entrant, holds less than more established players like Singtel. This is a substantial amount of spectrum assigned, making it comparable to Thailand and above other countries in the region such as Viet Nam and Cambodia. These actions were key enablers to support Singapore’s swift 5G network deployment.

The Universal Service Obligation (USO) in Singapore is a license condition imposed on PTLs (IMDA, 2013[101]). In the fixed broadband services market, USOs are imposed on NetLink Trust as a NetCo and on Nucleus Connect as an OpCo for the operation of the NBN. NetCo's USO, which came into effect in 2013, requires NetCo to provide optical fibre services to any location in mainland Singapore or connected Singapore islands at the request of communication licensees. OpCo's USO, from 2013, requires OpCos to meet all requests to activate wholesale bandwidth services over NetCo's Fibre in homes, offices and buildings (IMDA, 2015[102]). There is no Universal Service Fund, or any mechanism for financial support from the government or other operators.

Given the near ubiquitous coverage of the NBN (see section on “Broadband deployment”), efforts to bridge the digital divide are focused on adoption support programmes for low-income and other non-adopting households and users.

The Home Access and NEU PC Plus schemes offer subsidised broadband connectivity, and digital devices to all low-income households, particularly those with students and persons with disabilities. The schemes support digital needs and enable these households to use PCs with broadband services for three years for free (Navvaro, 4 July 2020[103]). The “DigitalAccess@Home” scheme has also been launched to provide subsidised Internet access and devices to lower-income households to support their lifestyle needs, including work and social activities (IMDA, 2023[104]).

The “Mobile Access for Seniors” scheme provides smartphone and mobile plans to interested lower-income seniors who cannot afford them. Specifically, a smartphone and a two-year mobile plan are available at a low cost for Singaporeans aged 60 and over who have acquired digital skills through the Senior Go Digital programme provided by IMDA (IMDA, 2023[105]).

IMDA only imposes rate regulation on dominant licensees that may not be affected by market forces (IMDA, 2023[66]). The Code of Practice for Competition in the Provision of Telecommunication and Media Services 2022 (TMCC) requires dominant licensees to submit tariffs to IMDA for approval before providing services. IMDA assesses whether the tariff plans submitted are fair and reasonable. The dominant licensees must publish IMDA-approved tariffs before the services are available (IMDA, 2022[42]). For their part, non-dominant licensees are not required to submit tariffs to IMDA for approval. However, they must publish the tariffs and terms and conditions of their services for the benefit of end-users (IMDA, 2022[42]).

In 2021, IMDA launched the “Digital For Life Movement”. This initiative brings together citizens, the private sector and the public sector to support digital learning for Singaporeans of all ages and social strata (IMDA, 2023[106]). Another initiative is the “SG Women in Tech”, driven by IMDA and supported by community and industry partners, which aims to attract, retain and develop women talent across a diversity of jobs in the infocomm workforce (SG Women In Tech, 2023[107]).

The “TechSkills Accelerator” (TeSA) is a national initiative driven by IMDA in collaboration with industry and other government agencies to build and develop a skilled ICT workforce for Singapore’s digital economy. Over the years, TeSA programmes have helped fill talent shortages by placing individuals in tech jobs in areas such as AI, cybersecurity, 6G, software development and cloud. The initiative has also helped upskill and reskill the existing tech workforce through tech courses and industry-recognized certifications to keep pace with changing skills (IMDA, 2023[108]).

The Code of Practice for Competition (IMDA, 2022[42]) contains various consumer protection provisions to which all FBO and SBO licensees must comply, where applicable. Specifically, licensees must disclose and publish information on service, and inform end-users regarding important matters before signing contracts. In addition, the code places restrictions on service termination or suspension and prohibit operators from charging for unsolicited services.

Singapore offers a variety of resolution options for contractual disputes over communication services to consumers. The Consumer Association of Singapore and the Small Claims Tribunal both offer solutions to disputes. In 2022, IMDA also introduced the Alternative Dispute Resolution Scheme (ADR) to provide affordable and effective solutions for dispute resolution. ADR is a two-step process administered by the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC), a neutral third party appointed by IMDA. The first step is a facilitated agreement (mediation) in which a mediator will help disputing parties reach a settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached, the consumer may choose to escalate to the second step (determination) where a determinant will render a binding decision. Consumers can opt directly for the second step (IMDA, 2023[109]).

IMDA has also published statistics on the performance of service providers in handling complaints from consumers to encourage service providers to improve their customer service standards (IMDA, 2023[110]).

This section analyses the quality of broadband networks in Singapore in line with the objective of Pillar III of the OECD Council Recommendation on Broadband Connectivity to ensure resilient, reliable, secure, and high-capacity networks. After examining recent policy and regulatory measures in this area, the analysis identifies areas for improvement and proposes policy recommendations to address them.

Singapore's end-user broadband quality of service is high at both regional and global levels. Fixed connectivity stands out both for its speed and its symmetry (similar upload and download speeds). According to Ookla, the median speed for fixed broadband access is the highest in the region. It was ranked first globally at 247.44 Mbps/205.73 Mbps (download/upload) (July 2023), well above global performance in the same month (82.59 Mbps/36.8 Mbps) (Ookla, 2023[111]). 23 Latency is also the lowest in the region – 4 ms (July 2023) (Ookla, 2023[111]), less than half the global average latency (9 ms). 24

This outstanding fixed broadband performance goes hand in hand with the high quality of the fibre-based NBN network. This network can deliver per-user speeds of 1 Gbps and above, a speed accessible to 98% of households, according to national authorities. The network also continues to evolve: Singapore authorities have already announced a nationwide upgrade of the NBN infrastructure in collaboration with industry to increase speeds up to tenfold (10 Gbps) over the next five years (Yuan, 2023[88]).

The performance of mobile broadband connections is also high. For mobile broadband access, the median speed is 77.95 Mbps/15.77 Mbps (download/upload) (July 2023). This is the second in the region after Brunei Darussalam, and well above the global median download speed (39.77 Mbps/10.18 Mbps) (July 2023) (Ookla, 2023[111]). Latency is 17 ms, also significantly lower than the global figure (28 ms) (Ookla, 2023[111]).

Measures of user experience reveal some differences by technology. According to Opensignal data, over 90 days beginning in December 2022, the national average download/upload speed observed by users connected to 4G was 46.7 Mbps/12.2 Mbps (download/upload). Meanwhile, the observed speed reached 354.4 Mbps/27.1 Mbps (download/upload) for users with active 5G connections (Figure ‎4.11) (Figure ‎4.12) (Opensignal, 2023[112]).25

The topology of the NBN contributes to the resilience of Singapore’s broadband services. A two-tier fibre ring network topology was chosen to provide the highest level of resilience and redundancy. In addition to providing failover protection in the event of network disruption, this configuration was simpler and more cost effective to implement. It required less cabling and digging than star or mesh configurations. It was also a scalable configuration that could easily grow with the fibre network (Chye, 2021[116]). Looking at the passive infrastructure layer of the NBN, NetLink reported a 99.99% network availability in 2023 (NetLink Trust, 2023[117]).

Moreover, Singapore authorities claim that both wired and wireless connectivity infrastructures are built with design principles of network redundancy and diversity to safeguard against widespread service disruption. For example, Singapore’s 5G networks are built to minimise bottleneck situations.

However, the authorities also recognise the increasing complexity of technologies and networks that makes it impossible to eliminate all service disruptions. Therefore, they are working with industry to increase network resilience, improve situational awareness and ensure a rapid response to incidents and restoration of service in the event of a disruption (MCI, IMDA, 2023[59]).

The Singaporean authorities have taken several measures to improve the quality of networks. The main ones are described below.

IMDA regulates the performance of carrier services by setting quality of service standards and requiring them to submit data regularly. IMDA regularly reviews quality of service requirements to consider industry and technology changes, as well as changes in consumer demand, to ensure that requirements remain relevant (IMDA, 2023[118]).

Based on this information, IMDA monitors and publishes monthly data on quality of service indicators of communication services, including fibre broadband access, mobile broadband and fibre connection services. These indicators include local and international latency on performance, network availability,26 number of complaints,27 data success,28 and drop rate29 for reliability. Data on installation-related service levels are collected and published for fibre connection services (NetLink Trust fibre connection) (IMDA, 2023[119]).

The IMDA has developed regulatory requirements for compliance by designated mobile and fixed-line network operators to ensure the resilience of their networks and services. The requirements reflect international best practices to minimise network outages. Operators are to conduct regular audits of their networks and infrastructure to demonstrate compliance with IMDA’s requirements. IMDA will take enforcement actions on operators if they are found to have caused unintended service disruption and network outages.

The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA), established in 2015, oversees the security of Singapore's cyberspace and works with the various sectoral leads to protect critical information infrastructure. While part of the Prime Minister's Office, the CSA is administered by MCI. In the same year, the Infocommunications Singapore Computer Emergency Response Team (ISG-CERT) was established to help IMDA respond effectively to cybersecurity threats in Singapore's communication and media sectors.

In 2021, the CSA published the Singapore Cybersecurity Strategy 2021 (Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, 2021[120]), which reviewed and updated the cybersecurity strategy launched in 2016. The Singapore Cybersecurity Strategy 2021 comprises three strategic pillars (build resilient infrastructure, enable a safer cyberspace, enhance international cyber co-operation) and two foundational enablers (develop a vibrant cybersecurity ecosystem, grow a robust cyber talent pipeline).

In terms of legislation, Singapore has the Cyber Security Act and codes of practice (Government of Singapore, 2018[121]). The Act provides a legal framework for the oversight and maintenance of national cyber security. For their part, CSA codes of practice impose requirements on owners of critical information infrastructures (Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, 2022[122]). IMDA also issued regulatory requirements to secure the infrastructure assets in communication and broadcast networks. Operators are required to comply with such regulatory requirements, and the operators’ networks are audited for compliance regularly. Should there be any cybersecurity incidents or attacks, the operators must remediate and implement measures to mitigate risks. IMDA and CSA will also work with the operators to assess if any other systemic issues need to be addressed. In addition, IMDA has issued the Cyber Security Vulnerability Reporting Guide for researchers to report cyber security vulnerabilities detected in public applications and networks (IMDA, 2023[123]).

This section analyses the environmental impact of the networks in Singapore in line with the objective of Pillar IV of the OECD Council Recommendation on Broadband Connectivity to minimise negative environmental impacts of communication networks. After examining recent policy and regulatory measures in this area, the analysis identifies areas for improvement and proposes policy recommendations to address them.

The environmental impact of the networks in terms of energy consumption is measured in the framework of the statistics collected and published annually by the Energy Market Authority. In 2021, for example, all sectors saw a growth in electricity consumption. The Information and Communications sector had the largest percentage growth at 30.7% (EMA, 2022[124]).

In policy terms, IMDA has introduced initiatives to reduce data centre (DC) power consumption. IMDA developed a Singapore Standard for DCs in 2011 to reduce energy consumption and operating costs of DCs, as well as to enhance their competitiveness. The Green DC Standard helps organisations establish the systems and processes to improve the energy efficiency of their DCs. The standard has been revised several times since 2011 (IMDA, 2023[125]). In 2018, IMDA invited proposals and provided grants for research in the area of improving energy efficiency in DCs (IMDA, 2018[126]). In 2023, IMDA published new sustainability standards for DCs operating in tropical climates. These target safe operation of DCs, while optimising energy efficiency while focusing on Singapore's geographic characteristics. IMDA has worked with several DC operators in Singapore to pilot this new standard to reduce energy usage. According to IMDA, Singapore operator Digital Realty has referenced the standard and successfully increased the DC operating temperature by 2°C in two of its 4.5 MW data halls. This translates to approximately 2-3% reduction in total energy usage in these data halls compared to 2018 (IMDA, 2023[127]).

As part of Singapore’s Digital Connectivity Blueprint launched in June 2023, IMDA is also working on a green DC roadmap, which will chart the overall longer-term growth pathway of our DC sector to enhance energy efficiency, accelerate alternative energy pathways and expand DC capacity for the digital economy.

In line with this policy emphasis from IMDA, some operators are also acting on sustainability. For example, NetLink Trust has committed to reducing certain classes of emissions by 50% by 2030, compared to FY 2022 rates, and to achieve net zero by 2050 (NetLink Trust, 2023[117]).

Furthermore, to advance Singapore as a regional hub for digital sustainability, IMDA is building international public-private partnerships to advance digital sustainability development towards a green digital future. IMDA works with key collaborators such as IBM and Microsoft to exchange best practices and promote green software implementations (IMDA, 2023[127]).

This section analyses the collection, analysis, and publication of data on the availability, performance and adoption of connectivity services and infrastructure deployment in Singapore in line with the objective of Pillar V of the OECD Council Recommendation on Broadband Connectivity to regularly assess the state of connectivity. After examining recent policy and regulatory measures in this area, the analysis identifies areas for improvement and proposes policy recommendations to address them.

IMDA publishes regular and comprehensive information on the state of connectivity services and infrastructures in Singapore. In terms of adoption, it publishes information on subscriptions broken down by residential and corporate users and by wired (xDSL and fibre) and wireless technologies (3G, 3.5G/HSDPA, 4G/LTE, WiMAX). Availability (coverage) information is published for 3G and 4G services, and capacity information for international connectivity. Finally, it publishes quality of service information (see details in the previous section) (IMDA, 2023[128]).


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← 1. Urban centre (high-density cluster) is defined as contiguous grid cells with a density of at least 1 500 inhabitants per square kilometre. An urban centre has a population of at least 50 000 (European Commission, Joint Research Centre, 2015[4]).

← 2. Urban cluster (moderate-density cluster) is defined as contiguous grid cells with a density of at least 300 inhabitants per square kilometre and has a population of at least 5 000 in the cluster (European Commission, Joint Research Centre, 2015[4]).

← 3. Total broadband subscriptions are calculated as the sum of fixed and mobile broadband subscriptions defined by the OECD in the Broadband Portal (OECD, 2015[130]), based on data provided directly by IMDA.

← 4. This calculation is based on active mobile broadband subscription provided directly by IMDA, and World Bank population data (World Bank, 2023[133]).

← 5. This calculation is based on fixed broadband subscription provided directly by IMDA, and World Bank population data (World Bank, 2023[133]).

← 6. Residential Wired Broadband Household Penetration Rate measures the total number of residential wired broadband subscriptions as a percentage of the total number of households in Singapore and excludes all wireless access plans (provided via 3G, 3.5G/HSDPA, 4G/LTE, WiMAX or its equivalent and Wi-Fi hotspots). This metric does not necessarily reflect of the proportion of households with broadband in Singapore as some households subscribe to more than one broadband connection (IMDA, 2023[12]).

← 7. In 2022, Keppel Corporation reported 100% gross interest and 84% effective equity interest in M1 Ltd. and M1 Net Ltd., as well as 50% gross interest and 42% effective equity interest in M1 Network Private Limited (Keppel Corporation, 2023, p. 212[30]). Its shareholdings of these companies are held jointly with other subsidiaries (Keppel Corporation, 2023, pp. 212, 214[30]).

← 8. An exchange rate of SGD 1.379=USD 1 was used, based on Singapore’s 2022 exchange rate at (OECD, 2023[131]).

← 9. The total fixed subscriptions sum IMDA data as of December 2022 for “total residential wired broadband” and “total corporate wired broadband” subscriptions (IMDA, 2023[12]). Total residential wired broadband refers to “all retail residential wired broadband subscriptions (i.e. for connection speeds equal to, or greater than, 256 kbit/s, in one or both directions) provided over xDSL, leased line and optical fibre. Residential wireless broadband subscriptions will be excluded. Provision of Broadband Internet access services via cable modem has ceased since 2020” (IMDA, 2023[12]). Total corporate wired broadband follows the same definition for “all retail corporate wired broadband subscriptions” (IMDA, 2023[12]).

← 10. Data reported for StarHub/MyRepublic relate to “Number of residential broadband subscribers - subscription-based (in thousands)” and include residential subscribers from MyRepublic (StarHub Ltd., 2023, p. 14[35]).

← 11. These are called “business public Internet access services market” and “residential public Internet access services market” (IMDA, 2022[38]). Three other relevant markets were identified, including business and residential local telephony services and local managed data network services (IMDA, 2022[38]).

← 12. An exchange rate of SGD 1.379=1 USD was used, based on Singapore’s 2022 exchange rate at (OECD, 2023[131]).

← 13. An exchange rate of SGD 1.379=1 USD was used, based on Singapore’s 2022 exchange rate at (OECD, 2023[131]).

← 14. Art. 5 of (Government of Singapore, 2018[44]) specifies that the “responsible Minister for a Group 1 public body may give to the public body directions as to the performance by the public body of its functions.” Under the First Schedule, IMDA is classified as a Group 1 public body (Government of Singapore, 2018[44]).

← 15. An exchange rate of SGD 1.379=USD 1 was used, based on Singapore’s 2022 exchange rate at (OECD, 2023[131]).

← 16. An exchange rate of SGD 1.379=USD 1 was used, based on Singapore’s 2022 exchange rate at (OECD, 2023[131]). As a hypothetical example, if the annual gross turnover of an FBO is SGD 102 million, then the annual licence fee would be 80 000 + (0.8%* 50 million) + (1% * 2 million).

← 17. An exchange rate of SGD 1.379=USD 1 was used, based on Singapore’s 2022 exchange rate at (OECD, 2023[131]). As a hypothetical example, if the annual gross turnover of a PTL is SGD 102 million, then the annual licence fee would be 200 000 + (0.8%* 50 million) + (1% * 2 million).

← 18. An exchange rate of SGD 1.379=USD 1 was used, based on Singapore’s 2022 exchange rate at (OECD, 2023[131]).

← 19. An exchange rate of SGD 1.379=USD 1 was used, based on Singapore’s 2022 exchange rate at (OECD, 2023[131]).

← 20. An exchange rate of SGD 1.379=USD 1 was used, based on Singapore’s 2022 exchange rate at (OECD, 2023[131]).

← 21. An exchange rate of SGD 1.379=USD 1 was used, based on Singapore’s 2022 exchange rate at (OECD, 2023[131]).

← 22. The data source for handset price is Tarifica; the source for GNI per capita, USD, 2022 is GSMA Intelligence. The handset price is the price of the cheapest handset available in each market with Internet-browsing capability in USD (nominal prices), as gathered in 2022. The methodology for data collection can be found in the Mobile Connectivity Index Methodology (GSMA, 2022[132]).

← 23. Data collected and aggregated according to Ookla’s Speedtest® Methodology (Ookla, 2023[129]).

← 24. Latency or ping is the reaction time of connection — that is, how quickly the user device gets a response after you've sent out a request. A fast ping means a more responsive connection, especially in applications where timing is everything (like video games). Ookla® measures several types of latency. The figures referenced in the text refer to ‘minimum latency’ that measures the best case latency for the user at the time they decide to take a Speedtest®. The lowest ping value is determined across one or more pings made before the download speed test – this represents the ‘minimum latency’ (Ookla, 2023[129]).

← 25. Reproduced with permission of Opensignal, based on independent analysis of mobile measurements recorded during the period December 1, 2022 - February 28, 2023, © 2023 Opensignal Limited - All rights reserved.

← 26. “Network availability” in this context, is the measure of the degree to which the network is operable and not in a state of failure or outage at any point of time.

← 27. The term "complaints" is defined as any expression of dissatisfaction with the service providers' service, product, advertisement or policy via oral or written communication that requires some action by the service provider beyond the initial contact.

← 28. Data success rate measures the percentage of successful data attempts.

← 29. Data drop rate measures the inability of the 4G network to maintain a connection. It may happen because of radio link failures, uplink or downlink interference, bad coverage, unsuccessful handovers or any other reason.

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