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Singapore telcos repeat call for 3G delay

Singapore mobile operator StarHub has called on the government regulator Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) to abolish a December 2004 deadline imposed for the rolling out of third-generation (3G) mobile networks in the island-state.

Existing enhanced second-generation technologies such as General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and Enhanced Data rate for GSM Evolution (Edge) will provide enough speed for mobile data demand, StarHub claimed.

StarHub has written to IDA to say that these upgrades will be sufficient for the next four years and will cost much less than building nationwide 3G Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (W-CDMA) networks.

The company's move is a repeat of requests made by operators in June to push back the rollout deadline, which was rejected by IDA, as was the concept of 3G infrastructure sharing.

StarHub said it could equip its network to run Edge for around S$200m (£72m), while estimates of the cost of building 3G infrastructure from scratch across Singapore's 750 square kilometres have been estimated at around S$500m.

StarHub's position is supported by national carrier Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel), whose SingTel Mobile subsidiary earlier postponed the award of contracts to build its 3G network.

SingTel said there was no advantage in rolling out a 3G network for the sake of it, if less-advanced technologies could do the job.

StarHub president and chief executive officer Terry Clontz said consumers were unconcerned about what infrastructure technology was being used. Only the availability and price of data-enabled handsets, useful applications and premium content would drive consumer demand, he added.

GPRS networks are theoretically capable of transmitting wireless data at around 115kbps and are already running a variety of wireless data services in Singapore.

Edge increases the speed to 384kbps. StarHub will trial Edge early next year and a range of Edge-compatible handsets are anticipated by the third quarter of next year.

Mobile One Asia (M1), the third Singapore operator to be granted a 3G licence, has so far stuck by its plan to launch 3G services in the middle of next year.

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