Fourth ISP Receives License in Singapore

DataOne Asia Pte. Ltd. (D1) will become Singapore's fourth ISP (Internet service provider) in November after it was granted a license to operate yesterday by the country's regulatory body Telecommunications Authority of Singapore (TAS).

The new company is a joint venture between local conglomerate Keppel Telecommunications & Transportation Ltd. (Keppel T&T) and media company Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. (SPH), who are also partners in cellular phone operator MobileOne Asia Pte. Ltd. (M1). D1 is the first new ISP in Singapore since the market was fully liberalized by TAS in October last year.

D1 is making an startup investment of S$15 million [M] (US$8.83 million [M]) and will initially target corporate customers rather than the consumer dial-up market which is the main focus of the three existing ISPs, the company said in a statement issued yesterday. It will offer value-added services such as high-speed access, dedicated Web hosting, e-business, facilities network management and VPNs (virtual private networks), D1 said.

The new ISP also plans to use its close links with M1 to offer extensive Internet services via mobile phones, the company said.

D1 faces three competitors with different strengths in a domestic market of only 3 million [M] citizens, and a large but diverse regional market.

First, the new ISP will compete against SingNet Pte. Ltd., a subsidiary of national carrier Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel), which holds just under 50 percent of the country's 450,000 Internet subscribers.

Secondly, D1 will face Pacific Internet Ltd. which, observers say, has built itself into Asia's first genuine regional ISP, with operations in Hong Kong, the Philippines and Australia.

Finally, the ISP will come up against the smallest existing ISP, Cyberway Pte. Ltd., which was recently taken over by the StarHub consortium. The consortium is due to become the Singapore's second basic telecommunications provider in April next year. StarHub's international members include British Telecommunications PLC and Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp. (NTT).

D1 is entering the Singapore ISP market two weeks after Pacific Internet began the first scheme here offering effectively free PCs to new subscribers, an offer which was matched shortly afterwards by rival SingNet.

The new ISP may also soon face new competitors in the market. Earlier this week, MCI WorldCom Inc.'s UUNet division reportedly applied to TAS for an ISP license, and Cable & Wireless PLC is reported to be in talks with local semiconductor company Flextech Group Holdings Pte. Ltd. about setting up an Internet services company.