Following months of public outcry over poor network coverage, authorities have fined all three networks for failing to meet quality standards for 3G services.
Based on the Infocomm Development Authority(IDA) of Singapore’s 3G Quality of Service Standard(QoS) for nation-wide outdoor service coverage, the IDA has fined all three a financial penalty of SG$10,000 on each mobile operator for non-compliance of the standard, said the government agency in a public statement.
The standard asks at least 99% service coverage on the indicator.
The QoS framework for 3G mobile services was revised in January 2012, with more stringent standards kicking in from April this year. For example, the standard for outdoor coverage was raised from 95 % to 99%.
Under the revised QoS framework, operators may also be subject to financial penalties of up to SG$50,000 for each instance of non-compliance. The previous financial penalty was SG$5,000.
With the new standards, IDA audited the mobile operators’ networks from April to June 2012, and did a joint survey with all three mobile operators in September.
The results of the survey showed that the nation-wide outdoor service coverage for all three mobile operators was below the standard, despite providing adequate general mobile coverage, said an IDA statement.
Leong Keng Thai, IDA deputy chief executive and director-general (Telecoms & Post), said, “Mobile operators should strive to improve service quality for their customers. IDA will conduct the next set of tests in the first half of 2013 and expects the mobile operators to improve and comply with the Nation-wide Outdoor Service Coverage indicator.”
The three mobile operators have retaliated, stating in a joint statement that the IDA’s new methodology of measuring coverage “may not provide an accurate view of actual customer experience” and that they would like to work with the government body to refine the methodology.
“We would like to assure all mobile users that providing services at a consistently acceptable level remains a top priority for us,” they said.
The three reasoned that to improve mobile coverage, they needed to find suitable locations to add more base stations to their networks and with current arrangements, it can take many months to find a suitable location and fill out the necessary paperwork to build more base stations.
They implored government agencies and building owners to in turn, “ease up the process.”
Cassie Fong, senior manager of corporate communications, StarHub clarified to Marketing that its concerns with the new methodology were that it includes remote areas, “which are very difficult to serve, and where there is very little human or telecommunications traffic.”
In recent times, SingTel has been making moves to expand its portfolio and become more than a telco, looking for new revenue streams in the form of acquiring HungryGoWhere.com,mobile ad platform Amobee and social photo sharing app producers Pixable, all under its Digital Life unit.