The government continues to recognise and places much emphasis on the importance of technology, media and telecommunications in society. During FY2016, the government is projected to launch tenders in the information and communications sectors worth approximately S$2.82 billion. This is higher than the S$2.2 billion spent for 2015.
The increased expenditure on ICT procurement dovetails with the new vision of a ‘Smart Nation’ introduced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in November 2014. This initiative aims to transform the daily life of Singaporeans by more fully integrating life with technology and making technology more accessible to the masses. The government has indicated that it will adopt a whole-of-government, whole-of-nation approach to this, and has set up a dedicated Smart Nation Programme Office under the Prime Minister’s Office to promote the greater integration of technology. The futuristic vision of the Programme is seen in the intention to develop, inter alia, technologies such as driverless cars, integrated 3D mapping and data analytics.
The Smart Nation initiative is the newest iteration of the government’s plans to develop ICT usage and integration in Singapore, following the successful conclusion of the 10-year ‘An Intelligent Nation 2015, A Global City, Powered by Infocomm’ (iN2015) plan, which was introduced in 2005. On 11 August 2015, the Infocomm Media Masterplan Steering Committee released the Infocomm Media 2025 report (Infocomm Media 2025), which maps out a holistic plan for developing Singapore’s infocomm media sector over the next 10 years. Infocomm Media 2025 enables and complements the Singapore Smart Nation vision and provides broad directions under three strategic thrusts to further strengthen the infocomm media landscape of Singapore.
Singapore’s success in developing its ICT industry is apparent. In 2015, the ICT industry registered robust year-on-year growth, reaching revenues of S$189.6 billion.2 The number of ICT professionals has also increased, to slightly over 172,800 infocomm professionals. Singapore has also remained at first place in the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2016, which ranks countries in terms of their ability to leverage ICT as an enabler of sustainable, long-term economic growth.
As of March 2016, the number of fixed-line subscribers has remained steady at approximately 2 million, representing a 36.4 per cent penetration. Further, as of June 2016, the amount of mobile subscribers has increased slightly to approximately 8.2 million (up from 8.1 million the year before), with mobile subscriber penetration now at 149.4 per cent (down from 148.2 per cent). There were also 12,300 dial-up internet subscribers (0.2 per cent penetration). Broadband internet subscriber figures increased slightly, with approximately 12.2 million subscribers (102.6 per cent penetration by household for wired broadband and 194.1 per cent penetration for wireless broadband). In comparison, the figures on 1 April 2000 (at the start of liberalisation) were 1.876 million fixed-line subscribers, 1.63 million mobile subscribers and 1.711 million dial-up internet subscribers (no broadband services were available at that time).
While the government has made various significant legislative and policy changes to adapt to the intense and dynamic technological changes of the past few decades, the regulation of IT and telecommunications remains separate from the regulation of media and broadcasting, as described in Section II, infra.
i The regulators
In the late 1980s, the government announced plans to privatise the telecommunication and postal services then being provided by the Telecommunication Authority of Singapore. Singapore Telecommunications Pte Ltd and Singapore Post Pte Ltd were subsequently incorporated in Singapore on 28 March 1992, and acquired all the necessary properties, assets and liabilities held by the Telecommunication Authority of Singapore in connection with the provision of such services.
The Singapore Broadcasting Authority was set up as a statutory board under the former Ministry of Information and the Arts – currently Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI)3 – in 1994. Formed in response to the privatisation of Singapore’s broadcasting industry, the Singapore Broadcasting Authority played a central role in the regulation and promotion of the broadcasting industry in Singapore. The Singapore Broadcasting Authority worked closely with the Economic Development Board, the National Computer Board and the Telecommunication Authority of Singapore to develop Singapore as a regional broadcasting hub. To provide a single agency for integrated planning, policy formulation, regulation and industry development of the IT and telecommunications sectors, a new Info-communications Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) was formed as a result of the merger between the Telecommunication Authority of Singapore and the National Computer Board in 1999. The Media Development Authority (MDA) was formed on 1 January 2003 by the merger of the Singapore Broadcasting Authority, the Films and Publications Department and the Singapore Film Commission to champion the development of a vibrant media sector in Singapore. The MDA regulates content delivery across various platforms, including television, radio, videos, internet and publications.
While the IDA and MDA share the same parent ministry (i.e., the MCI), they currently remain separate statutory boards. The government had previously disavowed any intention to merge the two agencies. However, as part of the Infocomm Media 2025 plan, the government announced on 18 January 2016 that the IDA and MDA will be administratively reorganised from 1 April 2016 and together with the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) will be restructured by the end of 2016 into two new statutory boards, namely the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the Government Technology Agency (GovTech). The new IMDA will take over the regulatory framework currently overseen by the IDA and MDA, such as the Telecommunications Act, the Postal Service Act, the Broadcasting Act and the Films Act. The Info-communications Media Development Authority Act, when formally enacted into law, provides for the formation of the new IMDA, and also sets out its powers, functions and duties as a regulator.
The IDA is currently the main regulator of the information and communications technology industry in Singapore. The Info-communications Development Authority of Singapore Act (IDA Act) provides for the formation of the IDA, and also sets out its powers, functions and duties as a regulator. The Telecommunications Act (Telecoms Act) provides for the IDA’s licensing and regulatory powers in respect of the telecommunications industry in Singapore.
The MDA derives its powers from the Media Development Authority of Singapore Act (MDA Act) and the Broadcasting Act. The media industry is also regulated by other legislation such as the Films Act, the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, the Undesirable Publications Act, and the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act.
ii Regulated activities
The Telecoms Act gives the IDA monopoly powers to operate and provide telecommunications systems and services. The IDA’s key functions include:
- a exercising licensing and regulatory functions in respect of telecommunication systems and services in Singapore;
- b the allocation and use of satellite orbits and radio frequency spectrum;
- c exercising regulatory functions in respect of the determination;
- d approval of prices, tariffs, charges; and
- e the provision of telecommunication and other related services.
The IDA is empowered to grant, modify or suspend the licences of telecommunication operators, and to sanction offences under the Telecoms Act. There is a general prohibition under the IDA Act on the running of telecommunication services in Singapore unless they have been licensed by the IDA under Section 5 of the Telecoms Act.
The IDA uses a two-tiered framework for the licensing of telecommunication operators. An operator who intends to deploy or operate any form of telecommunication network, systems or facilities for the purpose of providing telecommunication or broadcasting services outside its own property boundaries to third parties (who may include other licensed telecommunication operators, business consumers or the general public) is required to possess a facilities-based operator (FBO) licence. On the other hand, an operator who intends to lease telecommunication network elements (such as transmission capacity and switching services) from any FBO licensee so as to provide its own telecommunication services, or to resell or promote the telecommunication services of FBO licensees to third parties, is required to apply for a services-based operator (SBO) licence. An SBO licence is also required to deploy telecommunication networks, systems and facilities within the operator’s own property boundaries in order to offer telecommunications services to third parties resident within their property boundaries.
The IDA may also formulate and develop infocomm-related policies, as well as standards, codes of practices and advisory guidelines – all of which it can enforce – pertaining to issues such as licensing, interconnection, resource, assignment of spectrum rights and competition management. Mergers and acquisitions of telecommunication licensees are regulated under the Code of Practice for Competition in the Provision of Telecommunication Services 2012 (Telecoms Competition Code), which is enforced by the IDA. Under this Code, all licensees are also required to interconnect with each other, whether directly or indirectly, to ensure seamless any-to-any communications throughout Singapore. The IDA may grant exemptions from specific provisions of this Code where good cause is shown. Recently, the Telecoms Competition Code has also been amended for the purposes of alignment with the Singapore Personal Data Protection Act 2012 (PDPA), of which the key data protection provisions came into effect on 2 July 2014.
Likewise, the MDA is empowered to grant licences in respect of broadcasting services and broadcasting apparatuses. No person is allowed to provide any of the licensable broadcasting services set out in the Second Schedule of the Broadcasting Act without a valid broadcasting licence issued by the MDA. These services include free-to-air television or radio services (localised, nationwide or international), subscription television or radio services (localised, nationwide or international), special-interest television or radio services, audiotext, videotext or teletext services, video-on-demand (VOD) services, broadcast data services and online computer services. Some of the licensable broadcasting services (including audiotext, videotext or teletext services, broadcast data services and online computer services) are class-licensed by the MDA under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification (Notification).
The Code of Practice for Market Conduct in the Provision of Mass Media Services (MMCC) was issued by the MDA in 2003 to promote fair market conduct and effective competition in the broadcasting and print sectors. The MMCC was significantly revised in 2010 to, inter alia, impose obligations around the cross-carriage of exclusive content in the pay-TV market, and further revisions were made to enhance consumer protection in the pay-TV sector in early 2016.
Unfair methods of competition and anticompetitive practices are expressly dealt with in the MMCC. These regulations also ensure that media players do not unfairly leverage on their own or their affiliates’ significant market power in a media or non-media market. Mergers of any dominant media player with another media player (whether dominant or not) would require the MDA’s approval for consolidation. As such, this will assist in addressing potential anticompetitive issues arising from convergence and merging of portfolios of various players in the market.
In the event a particular media resource is declared to be an ‘essential resource’ by the MDA (i.e., the resource must be used by another media licensee, but such resource cannot be created within the foreseeable future or cannot be obtained from a third party at a cost to allow it to compete efficiently), access to such ‘essential resource’ must be provided on reasonable and non-discriminatory prices, terms and conditions.
iii Ownership and market access restrictions
Full market competition in the telecommunications sector was introduced in April 2000. Direct and indirect foreign equity limits for all public telecommunications services licences were removed, and licensees were free to decide on the types of networks, systems, facilities and preferred technology platform to offer their services. The limits on the number or type of licences were also removed, except when there are physical or resource constraints.
In general, there are no foreign ownership restrictions on FBO or SBO licensees. However, an FBO licensee will be required to be a company incorporated under the Singapore Companies Act. An SBO (Individual) licensee may be a company incorporated or a foreign company registered under the Companies Act, while an SBO (Class) licensee may (in addition) be a limited liability partnership or limited partnership.
The Broadcasting Act regulates the ownership of broadcasting companies in Singapore. A ‘broadcasting company’ is a company (or a holding company) incorporated or registered under the Companies Act that holds a free-to-air licence; any broadcasting licence under which a subscription broadcasting service may be provided (in each case where such licence permits broadcast which is capable of being received in 50,000 dwelling houses or more, but does not include a class licence); or any other broadcasting licence as the Minister of Communications and Information may from time to time specify in the public interest, or in the interest of public security or order or national defence.
There are also controls on the shareholding and voting power of broadcasting companies. For example, substantial shareholdings (i.e., an aggregate of more than 5 per cent of the nominal amount of all voting shares) in a broadcasting company and other forms of controlling shareholdings are subject to the Minister’s approval. Broadcasting companies in Singapore must also ensure that at least half of their directors are citizens of Singapore, unless the MDA approves otherwise. The MDA also has the right to approve the chief executive officer of a broadcasting company, as well as its directors and chair.
Further, there are media cross-ownership restrictions in the MDA Act, which provide that no regulated person shall be merged or consolidated with, or taken over by, any other regulated person; or any other person (not being a regulated person) carrying on business in any media industry, without the prior written approval of the MDA.
iv Transfers of control and assignments
Generally, licences cannot be transferred from a licensee to a third party. For telecommunication licensees, the IDA’s approval is required for any consolidation involving an FBO or SBO licensee that the IDA has declared to be a designated telecommunication licensee pursuant to Section 32A(2) of the Telecoms Act, which would result in an entity holding an ownership interest in the licensee of 12 per cent or more. For acquisitions of between 5 and 12 per cent, the IDA is required to be notified, unless such acquisitions occur by virtue of certain prescribed transactions set out in the Telecommunications (Prescribed Transactions) Order 2012.
A consolidation application needs to be filed either separately or jointly by both parties, together with a competitive impact and public interest statement. The short-form consolidation application procedure, with an abbreviated statement, may be used if the consolidation is a horizontal consolidation that will not result in the post-consolidation entity having more than a 15 per cent share in the telecommunication market in Singapore; or the consolidation is a non-horizontal consolidation in which none of the applicants has more than a 25 per cent share of any telecommunications market, whether in Singapore or elsewhere, in which it participates.
The IDA will not approve a consolidation application where it determines that the consolidation is likely to substantially lessen competition in any telecommunications market in Singapore or harm the public interest. The IDA may approve the consolidation application with or without conditions.
The IDA will ordinarily complete its consolidation review within 30 days of the start of the consolidation review period. In any case in which the IDA determines that a consolidation application raises novel or complex issues, it may extend the review period by up to 90 days, to a maximum of 120 days. Where appropriate, the IDA will provide the public with an opportunity to comment on a request or a consolidation application.
For media licensees, the MDA’s prior written approval is required for any consolidation between regulated entities, including broadcasting licensees.
For the purposes of the MMCC, a ‘consolidation’ means a merger, acquisition, takeover or other similar transaction that results in two entities that were previously independent economic entities becoming – as a practical matter – a single economic entity, including by way of an asset purchase or the setting up of a new joint-venture vehicle into which significant assets of the entities will be transferred. Part 8 of the MMCC requires all regulated persons seeking to enter into a consolidation with another regulated person or any other person (not being a regulated person) that provides mass media services or ancillary media services to submit a consolidation application within 30 days of the day on which they entered into a consolidation agreement.
Both entities must jointly submit a consolidation application with a statement that provides a clear, accurate and comprehensive description of the proposed consolidation, a good-faith assessment of the likely impact of the proposed consolidation on competition in any mass media services market, and a discussion of why approval of the proposed consolidation would serve the public interest.
As the MDA may make the statement available to the public, the applicants should put proprietary or commercially sensitive information in a separate appendix and request its confidential treatment. The consolidation agreement (and any public statement regarding the proposed consolidation) must include language expressly stating that the consolidation will not be consummated unless and until such time as the MDA grants written approval. The MDA will ordinarily complete its review of the consolidation application within 30 days of the start of the consolidation review period (i.e., when the applicants submit a consolidation application that contains all materials required pursuant to Part 8 of the MMCC), but this can be extended up to a maximum of 120 days where novel or complex issues are raised, and 180 days in extraordinary cases.
There is a ‘short-form’ application procedure for cases in which a proposed consolidation is unlikely to raise significant competitive issues. The MDA will generally grant approval for any application that is eligible for this procedure without significant review based on the applicant’s abbreviated description, competitive impact and public interest statement. The two cases when this procedure can be used are when the proposed consolidation is unlikely to result in the post-consolidation entity having:
- a a market share of 40 per cent or more of any media market in Singapore; or
- b a market share of between 20 and 40 per cent of any media market in Singapore, and the post-consolidation combined market share of the largest three regulated persons or ancillary media service providers, or a combination thereof, is 70 per cent or more of any media market in Singapore.
The MDA can impose structural and behavioural conditions as part of its approval.
III TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND INTERNET ACCESS
i Internet and internet protocol regulation
The IDA regulates the carriage of the internet and IP-based services, while the MDA regulates the content delivered on these various platforms. For example, if one were to deploy a telecommunication network or system to provide internet or IP-based services, one would have to apply to the IDA for an FBO licence. For provision of internet or IP-based services over leased telecommunication network elements, an SBO licence will be required.
Provision of IP telephony services in particular requires an SBO (Individual) licence. Licensees must likewise adhere to the National Numbering Plan provided by the IDA, which sets out rules and guidelines for the use and assignment of numbers to telephone services delivered over the public switched telephone network (PSTN) radio network (collectively, the paging network, cellular mobile network and trunked radio network) and the internet or other IP-based network. In general, numbers beginning with ‘3’ are reserved for use in the IP telephony service, while numbers beginning with ‘6’ are reserved for use in PSTN and IP telephony services.
ii Universal service
Since 2000, the government has rolled out the Singapore ONE project to provide nationwide broadband access over ADSL and cable to households in Singapore. With full market liberalisation over recent years, the broadband household penetration rate has risen steadily from 7 per cent in December 2000 to a residential wired broadband household penetration rate of 102.6 per cent (residential wired broadband penetration rate only) in May 2016.
In the area of wireless broadband access, the government appointed three operators to launch a nationwide wireless broadband programme called Wireless@SG in December 2006. This service aims to extend free wireless broadband access to the public in high human-traffic areas, and is available at about 7,500 hotspots around the island. Access speeds were doubled to 1Mb/s from 512kb/s from 1 September 2009 to allow users to enjoy better access to media-rich and interactive websites and bandwidth intensive services. The current phase of this free Wi-Fi service (from 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2017) is offered by the three mobile operators and Y5Zone Singapore Pte Ltd. Interoperable SIM-based authentication for automatic log-in to the network has been implemented from 1 April 2014 to supplement the web-based and seamless secure access log-in methods. Further, having identified Wireless@SG as a key enabler of Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative, the Singapore government has announced in 2016 measures to boost the surfing speed and number of hotspots of this service.
The government has also invested about S$1 billion to fund the deployment of the Next Gen NBN, a nationwide fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network. The Next Gen NBN is designed to be an open access network, and comprises three key industry layers. The network company or NetCo (OpenNet Pte Ltd) designs, builds and operates the passive infrastructure layer, while the operating company (OpCo) (Nucleus Connect Pte Ltd) designs, builds and operates the active network components to provide wholesale bandwidth connectivity to retail service providers. The NetCo must be structurally separated from the other industry layers, while operational separation is imposed on the OpCo.
It is envisioned that the Next Gen NBN will provide nationwide ultra-high-speed broadband access of 1Gb/s and beyond to all physical addresses, including homes, schools, government buildings, businesses and hospitals. The deployment of the Next Gen NBN commenced in 2009 and commercial services on the new fibre-optic network have been launched by all major telecommunication service providers. With the levelling of the playing field, a number of smaller internet service providers (ISPs), including MyRepublic, ViewQwest, OSINet and LGA Telecom, has joined the three existing operators in offering new high-speed packages to commercial and residential broadband subscribers. The coverage of the Next Gen NBN has reached over 95 per cent, with more than 560,000 subscribers signed up to services from approximately 15 retail service providers.
iii Restrictions on the provision of service
Dominant licensees are subject to tariff-filing requirements in respect of certain services, such as standardised services designed for residential customers, standardised services designed for business customers, services designed for specific customers, promotional services, and certain resale and wholesale services. The IDA will determine whether a proposed tariff is just and reasonable. Non-dominant licensees are not subject to the tariff-filing requirements. Dominant licensees are also required to provide services on non-discriminatory terms.
There is a duty imposed on FBO and SBO licensees that use switching or routing equipment to provide services to the public to interconnect with other licensees. There is also a duty on public telecommunication licensees to provide a basic telephone service to any person in Singapore who requests the provision of such service. Otherwise, licensees have the latitude to choose the customers and the content they carry. There are no specific ‘network neutrality’ obligations currently imposed on licensees, albeit ISPs must meet the minimum broadband quality of service standards to ensure a reasonable broadband internet experience for end-users. ISPs are allowed to implement reasonable network management practices and offer niche or differentiated internet service offerings, provided that they satisfy the IDA’s requirements on information transparency and fair competition, and do not amount to blocking of legitimate internet content.
Network operators must take reasonable measures to prevent the unauthorised use of end-user service information (EUSI). Network operators may intercept messages for the purpose of providing assistance to law enforcement, judicial or other government agencies.
Regulatory and legislative policies governing the internet and IP sector as well as national security issues have evolved in tandem to adapt to the changes on each side.
Unauthorised access to, or modification of, computer material would constitute offences under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act (CMCA). Unauthorised use or interception of computer services would also constitute offences, and enhanced punishment is provided for offences involving protected computers (e.g., computers used in connection with national security or defence, law enforcement, public key infrastructure, and essential emergency and public safety services). The CMCA was amended in January 2013 to provide the government with greater powers to implement countermeasures against cyberattacks on critical infrastructure. In particular, where the relevant minister is satisfied that it is necessary for the purposes of preventing, detecting or countering any threat to the national security, essential services, defence or foreign relations of Singapore, the minister may authorise or direct any person or organisation to take such measures or comply with such requirements as may be necessary to prevent, detect or counter any threat to a computer or computer service or any class of computers or computer services. The definition of essential services was also widened to include services relating to land transport infrastructure, aviation, shipping and health services.
Apart from the offences provided for under the CMCA, the government has launched the National Cyber Security Masterplan 2018 (NCSM2018) to enhance Singapore’s resilience against cyberthreats. The NCSM2018 aims to reinforce Singapore’s cybersecurity by intensifying efforts in the government and critical infocomm infrastructure as well as the wider infocomm ecosystem, which includes businesses and individuals. Complementary to the NCSM2018 is the National Trust Framework, which was conceptualised as part of the iN2015 Masterplan to provide a national framework that provides greater assurance and trust. One of the key initiatives is establishing a national authentication framework, which will enhance the security of online transactions through the deployment of a nationwide-strong authentication platform.
The government has also established a National Cyberthreat Monitoring Centre to provide the government with the capability for early detection of potentially devastating cyberattacks and the ability to respond to cybersecurity incidents in real time. Further, a major initiative launched in April 2015 was the new Cyber Security Agency (Agency), Singapore’s apex cybersecurity watchdog created to develop national cybersecurity strategy and policy, and to coordinate cyber-related operations between the multiple government agencies and departments. The need for the Agency became apparent because of the increase in the number of cybersecurity incidents in Singapore over the past two years, such as the hacking of the Prime Minister’s Office website in 2013, and the illegal accessing of over 1,000 SingPass accounts, which stores crucial citizen information and provides access to important government websites, in 2014. Concurrently with the aim of increasing the strength of Singapore’s cybersecurity, the Economic Development Board and the Defence Science and Technology Agency have also stepped up efforts to recruit talent for the cybersecurity industry, with the latter conducting outreach to young Singaporeans through its Cyber Defenders Discovery Camp. The Agency conducted its first cybersecurity table-top exercise for the banking and finance sectors, test-driving responses to hypothetical cyber incidents, in May 2015.
The Singapore Common Criteria Evaluation and Certification Scheme (SCCS), which was established in May 2005 as part of the iN2015 Masterplan, also aims to enhance cybersecurity. The SCCS allows infocomm companies to evaluate and certify their security products against the common criteria (CC) standard (ISO/IEC 15408) in Singapore. The framework of the CC is based on the Common Criteria Arrangement on the Recognition of Common Criteria Certificates in the field of Information Technology Security, a set of publicly available standards that define the criteria for evaluating IT security properties.
Material that has a subversive tendency or compromises national interests, public order or security may be prohibited under the Internal Security Act. This includes material that:
- a contains any incitement to violence;
- b counsels disobedience regarding the law or any lawful order;
- c is calculated or likely to lead to a breach of the peace, or to promote feelings of hostility between different races or classes of the population; or
- d is prejudicial to the national interest, public order or security of Singapore.
The transmission of false threats of terrorist acts (e.g., bomb hoaxes) are also penalised under Regulation 8(1) of the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Regulations, read with Section 5(1) of the United Nations Act. In some cases, such offences are prosecuted under Section 45 of the Telecoms Act, which contains a general prohibition against the transmission of a false or fabricated message through the telecommunications system.
The Sedition Act has also been used against persons who post racist or other incendiary remarks on the internet. The Sedition Act makes it an offence for a person to:
- a commit or attempt to commit any act that has or that would have a seditious tendency;
- b utter any seditious words;
- c print, publish, sell, offer for sale, distribute or reproduce any seditious publications; or
- d import any seditious publications.
Material that may potentially fall foul of the Sedition Act includes material that excites disaffection against the government or the administration of justice in Singapore, or excites hatred or contempt against it, and material that promotes feelings of ill will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore.
Under the Internet Code of Practice (Internet Code), prohibited material is not allowed to be provided on the internet by any licensee under the class licence. The term ‘prohibited material’ includes material that is objectionable on public interest, public morality, public order, public security and national harmony grounds. Similarly, the various television content codes provide that content provided on television should not undermine public security interests or public confidence in the law and its enforcement in Singapore.
The MDA has worked with three ISPs in Singapore to provide family access networks (FANs) or filtering services that parents can subscribe to for their children. FANs assist parents who may be unfamiliar with standalone filtering software by filtering out pornographic and other undesirable sites. Parents can contact their respective ISPs to subscribe to the filtering services or can otherwise opt to purchase other internet-filtering software from the market.
The MDA has also mandated that ISPs in Singapore are required to promote the use of internet filters, including filters for mobile devices, at the point of sale and upon renewal of the subscription agreement. It is hoped that this move will raise the awareness of parents and encourage the use of such filters to protect the young from inappropriate content. The first internet filtering service for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets has been introduced by one of the major telecommunications service providers in Singapore.
On 15 October 2012, the Singapore Parliament (Parliament) passed the PDPA, which establishes a baseline data protection framework that applies to all organisations in the private sector. Inter alia, it establishes notification and consent requirements for the use, collection and disclosure of personal data, establishes restrictions on the transfer of personal data abroad and places protection obligations on the private sector. The PDPA also establishes a do-not-call registry (DNC Registry), which aims to provide individuals with a simple and efficient way to opt out of receiving unsolicited marketing messages.
On 2 July 2014, the Personal Data Protection Regulations (PDPR) came into force. The PDPR expands on, inter alia, the PDPA’s Access and Correction Obligation and Transfer Obligation.
In particular, the PDPR require organisations to respond to each access request as accurately and completely as necessary, and as reasonably possible, and within 30 days of such request being made. However, if an organisation is unable to comply with this requirement, it must (within the 30-day period) inform the applicant in writing of the date by which it will respond to the request.
Further, the PDPR require an organisation transferring personal data outside of Singapore to take appropriate steps to ascertain whether, and to ensure that, the recipient of the personal data in that country or territory outside Singapore is bound by legally enforceable obligations to provide for the transferred personal data a standard of protection that is at least comparable with the protection under the PDPA.
Under the Telecoms Competition Code, there is a prohibition on all FBO and SBO licensees from unauthorised use of any EUSI. EUSI consists of all information that the licensee obtains as a result of the end-user’s use of its telecommunication services, and includes the end-user’s usage patterns, services used, telephone number and network configuration, location information as well as billing name, address and credit history. Thus, unless the end-user has provided prior consent, a licensee must not use EUSI for any purpose other than that as provided for in the Telecoms Competition Code.
vi Spam control
The Spam Control Act (SCA) seeks to regulate the sending of spam (i.e., unsolicited commercial communications sent in bulk) by prescribing requirements that must be met before such communications may be sent. Such requirements include the provision of an unsubscribe facility and compliance with labelling and other requirements. The SCA applies to e-mails and mobile messages (i.e., text or multimedia messages sent via a mobile telephone) originating from or sent to a device located in Singapore, or where the sender or receiver of the message is an individual or entity either physically present or carrying on business or other activities in Singapore. Sending of spam to electronic addresses obtained by way of a dictionary attack or address-harvesting software is prohibited under the SCA.
IV SPECTRUM POLICY
The IDA is the regulatory body responsible for the utilisation of radio frequency spectrum. It constantly monitors the trends and developments of new wireless technology, and reviews the frequency allocations whenever there is a demand for spectrum. In the past, spectrum was administratively allocated; however, the IDA has recognised that in a liberalised environment, administrative allocation may not be the most objective, efficient or transparent means of ensuring that spectrum is effectively used. As such, the IDA has moved towards a market-based approach by adopting an auction process where competing services in common bands cannot effectively share the same spectrum. For example, the IDA has adopted the auction process for allocating spectrum for 3G services, 4G and wireless broadband access.
ii Flexible spectrum use
The spectrum of radio frequencies in the very high frequency (VHF) and ultra high frequency (UHF) bands currently allocated for use, on a primary basis, for the provision of terrestrial broadcast services in Singapore, are not all in use at any given time. Within this spectrum, there are interleaved and contiguous spectrum blocks that are not used to provide broadcast services. Such unused spectrum (‘white spaces’) are situated below 1GHz, and radio signals within such spectrum have propagation characteristics that allow such signals to travel long distances and penetrate buildings easily. As such, the IDA has invited interested parties to conduct trials to explore the various spectrum environments and regimes that white space technology can operate in, yet at the same time ensuring continued protection of licensed services in Singapore from possible interference during the trial period. One of the key objectives of the Cognitive Radio Venues (CRAVE) trials is to examine how best to make use of the white space spectrum for the benefit of consumers and businesses. In April 2012, several organisations (I2R, StarHub and Microsoft) confirmed that they would lead the formation of a ‘Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group’ to leverage on the CRAVE trials to establish Singapore as an innovation zone for white space technology. The pilot group intends to undertake commercial pilot deployments to explore how white space technology could supplement the existing wireless infrastructures and develop innovative consumer and business applications.
On 16 June 2014, the IDA issued its decision on the regulatory framework for the use of TV white space (TVWS) technology in Singapore after holding a public consultation. The IDA’s decision set out, inter alia, the inclusion of 700MHz band for TVWS deployment in the future, the adoption of the geo-location database approach as the mandated method for white space devices to access TVWS spectrum space, and the implementation of unique white space devices identifiers.
In mid-2014, the IDA also concluded a public consultation that sought to canvass industry views on the allocation of long-term rights in the 3.5GHz band, and planned services and target market segments for use of these bands. However, no further information from the IDA has been forthcoming about the results of this consultation exercise.
iii Broadband and next-generation mobile spectrum use
To address the growing need for spectrum for broadband services and next-generation mobile services, apart from the white space trials, the IDA is also reviewing current spectrum allocations to ensure the most efficient use. For example, it has identified certain spectrums for the future expansion of 3G services. In relation to the evolution of 4G spectrum bands, the IDA is also aware of the necessity to ensure that there is adequate lead time for existing services to migrate to alternative modes of reception where necessary. In relation to wireless broadband services, the IDA is looking into opening more spectrum for wireless broadband services, and has identified a certain bandwidth for mobile or wireless services.
One step that the IDA has indicated it will take to expand 3G and 4G services is the closure of the 2G mobile network in April 2017, with the spectrum currently assigned to the 2G network being reallocated to provide faster and more advanced 3G and 4G services. There are only 250,000 mobile subscribers on the 2G network, representing 3 per cent of Singapore’s mobile phone connections. These users will have to upgrade to the 3G or 4G networks. The IDA will stop accepting registrations of 2G-only mobile equipment from September 2015, and consumers have been advised not to purchase such equipment.
The government indicated in July 2010 that it will go ahead with a proposed auction of a fourth lot of spectrum in the 3G band (i.e., the 1,900/2,100MHz frequency band). This fourth lot of spectrum was left unallocated during the last round of auction in 2001, when three lots of 3G spectrum were allocated to the three mobile operators in Singapore.
Pursuant to a public consultation process leading to this decision, respondents submitted feedback indicating that they generally agreed with the allocation of the remaining spectrum. However, three out of the four respondents (namely the existing mobile operators in Singapore) objected to the market allocation (i.e., allocation by way of auction) of the spectrum lots. The mobile operators instead suggested that the IDA allocate the spectrum administratively to them equally as a more cost-effective approach. Nonetheless, the IDA took the view that the auction mechanism ensured that scarce spectrum resources would be allocated in the most efficient and transparent manner.
However, only three applications were received from the existing mobile operators during the auction process. As such, the IDA allocated each of the available 3G spectrum lots to the respective bidders for the reserve price of S$20 million.
Where 4G spectrum is concerned, the IDA has also issued a public consultation paper in April 2012 on the proposed framework for the reallocation of spectrum for 4G telecommunication systems and services. Following the public consultation, the IDA announced on 16 January 2013 that it was putting up a total of 270MHz of 4G spectrum for auction, comprising 150MHz of spectrum in the 1800MHz band and 120MHz of spectrum in the 2.5GHz band. The three mobile operators submitted initial offers for the spectrum, but the total amount of spectrum that they bid for did not exceed the amount available in each of the spectrum bands mentioned above.
As such, on 28 June 2013, the IDA provisionally awarded the 4G spectrum rights to the three mobile operators. M1 obtained 80MHz of spectrum, SingTel obtained 100MHz of spectrum and StarHub obtained 90MHz of spectrum. The placement of the spectrum lots acquired by the mobile operators will be determined in the next stage of the process (the assignment stage). These spectrum rights will commence on 1 July 2015 for spectrum in the 2.5GHz band and 1 April 2017 for spectrum in the 1800MHz band, upon the expiration of the existing spectrum rights. The mobile operators may continue to provide mobile services (including 4G services) over their existing spectrum rights until then.
The mobile operators will be required to provide nationwide 4G street level coverage by 30 June 2016 and coverage for Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) underground stations and lines and road tunnels by 30 June 2018.
An additional total of 235MHz of spectrum will be made available for auction for mobile services in the second half of 2016.
iv Spectrum auctions and fees
The IDA typically uses two schemes to charge users for access to the radio spectrum – namely market-based charging (auctions) or cost-based charging. Auctions are used to set a market-based charge for use in frequency bands in scarce supply. In frequency bands that are congested or potentially congested, the IDA will set fees according to the opportunity cost of the spectrum. Cost-based charges are set to recover costs incurred in administering the use of the spectrum, such as frequency coordination, radio monitoring, interference investigations and frequency database management. In any event, the IDA has moved away from administrative allocation, where feasible, to a market-based allocation approach using auctions, especially when assigning highly contested spectrum, so as to allow market forces to set the price.
The IDA has also decided to use a new auction format after holding a public consultation on the reallocation of 4G spectrum. In the consultation paper, the IDA proposed the use of a ‘clock plus’ auction format, which is a variant of the simultaneous multiple round action and combinatorial clock auction formats commonly used in 4G auctions in other jurisdictions. Under the ‘clock plus’ auction format that the IDA has decided to use for the main auction, bidders will specify demand for quantities of lots within specified lot categories, subject to the relevant spectrum caps. In each round, there is a single common price for all lots within a category, and this price ‘ticks’ up over successive rounds until there is no longer any excess demand.
i Restrictions on the provision of service
Broadcasters licensed by the MDA are required to comply with various codes issued by the MDA under the Broadcasting Act, including the Free-to-air Television Programme Code, Subscription Television Programme Code, Free-to-air Radio Programme Code (collectively referred to as the Programme Codes), Television Advertising Code, Radio Advertising Code (collectively referred to as the Advertising Codes) and the Television Programme Sponsorship Code (Sponsorship Code).
The Programme Codes seek to impose guidelines that are congruent with national interests in upholding racial and religious harmony, observing societal and moral standards, and promoting positive family values. However, it is recognised in the Programme Codes that standards may vary according to the time of the telecast and the target audience (the watershed time for television is 10pm), as well as the accessibility or otherwise of the programme (e.g., premium channels for subscription television). The Programme Codes also require broadcasters to maintain high standards of language and speech in the four official languages of Singapore, and to refrain from using localised English or other dialects.
The Advertising Codes seek to ensure that the interests of viewers or listeners as consumers are protected. Therefore, the Advertising Codes prescribe that advertisements on television and radio must be truthful and lawful and should not contain any claims that may be misleading. All claims and comparisons must be capable of substantiation, and should not in any way deceive or mislead. Advertisements should respect public taste and interests, and uphold moral and social mores. In addition, the Advertising Codes stipulate that broadcasters should exercise discretion when scheduling advertisements and trailers to ensure that they are appropriate for the target audience.
The Sponsorship Code is concerned with aspects of television programme services that entail advertiser involvement in programming and promotional (rather than advertising) time. Besides exercising social responsibility, broadcasters are required to maintain editorial integrity and programming independence, and should not be influenced by the sponsor regarding either the content or acquisition of a programme.
In addition, the Broadcasting Act provides that the Minister of Communications and Information may, by an order published in the Gazette, declare any foreign broadcasting service rebroadcast in Singapore on any relevant licensable broadcasting service to be a foreign broadcasting service engaging in the domestic politics of Singapore. Currently, the nationwide subscription television services provided by StarHub Cable Vision Ltd and SingNet Pte Ltd have been designated as relevant licensable broadcasting services. Prior approval for the inclusion of such declared foreign broadcasting service would need to be sought from the Minister, who may make the approval conditional upon restrictions being imposed on the number of persons capable of receiving such declared foreign broadcasting service. The Minister may also impose conditions requiring that the rebroadcast be suspended for such period as the Minister may, from time to time, direct.
ISPs and ICPs licensed under the Notification are required to comply with the conditions of the class licence set out in the Schedule of the Notification. These conditions stipulate, inter alia, that the licensee shall:
- a ensure that its service is not used for, or in furtherance of, games and lotteries, the conduct of which is an offence under the Common Gaming Houses Act unless the licensee is exempted from the provisions of that Act;
- b avoid the broadcast of horse-racing analyses, commentaries or tips, other than horse-racing results, for the purpose of gambling;
- c ensure that its service is not used to advertise, provide or otherwise promote astrology, geomancy, palmistry or any other type of fortune-telling device;
- d ensure that its service is not used for soliciting or for any other immoral activity;
- e ensure that any professional advice, or any specialist consultancy service, offered on its service is offered by persons with qualifications recognised by the relevant professional bodies in Singapore;
- f in the case of the broadcast of sound recordings, ensure that only sound recordings that are acceptable to the censorship section of the MDA are broadcast; and
- g in the case of the broadcast of films or video recordings, ensure that only films and video recordings that are approved by the Board of Film Censors are broadcast, unless the film or video recording is one to which the Films Act does not apply or is one that is exempted from the provisions of that Act.
Class licensees are also subject to the Internet Code, which seeks to set out other obligations and duties of licensees. Generally speaking, the Internet Code requires all licensees to ensure that no ‘prohibited materials’ (i.e., material that is objectionable on the grounds of public interest, public morality, public order, public security or national harmony, or is otherwise prohibited by applicable Singapore laws) is broadcast via the internet to users in Singapore. In considering what material should be prohibited, the factors listed below are relevant:
- a whether the material depicts nudity or genitalia in a manner calculated to titillate;
- b whether the material promotes sexual violence or sexual activity involving coercion or non-consent of any kind;
- c whether the material depicts a person or persons clearly engaged in explicit sexual activity;
- d whether the material depicts a person who is, or appears to be, under 16 years of age in sexual activity, in a sexually provocative manner or in any other offensive manner;
- e whether the material advocates homosexuality or lesbianism, or depicts or promotes incest, paedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia;
- f whether the material depicts detailed or relished acts of extreme violence or cruelty;
- g whether the material glorifies, incites or endorses ethnic, racial or religious hatred, strife or intolerance; and
- h whether the material has intrinsic medical, scientific, artistic or educational value.
The MDA has the power to order the removal of objectionable content under the Notification, and if the licensee breaches such order, the MDA has the discretion to cancel or suspend the class licence in respect of such licensee for such period as it thinks fit, or to require the payment of a fine of such amount as it thinks fit. However, the MDA generally applies a light-touch approach towards regulating services on the internet, and a licensee found to be in breach of the foregoing regulations will generally be given a chance to rectify the same.
The MDA has also implemented a new licensing regime for certain online news websites that will be subject to an individual licensing regime from 1 June 2013 in order to place them on more consistent regulatory footing with traditional news platforms. This new licensing requirement applies to websites that regularly report on issues relating to Singapore (on average at least one article per week on Singapore’s news and current affairs over a period of two months) and have significant reach (at least 50,000 unique IP addresses from Singapore per month over a period of two months). Since the implementation of the new licensing regime, the MDA has assessed that 11 local news websites fall under the new licensing regime, including nine from the main newspaper publishers and broadcasters in Singapore (Singapore Press Holdings and MediaCorp), and one operated by Yahoo! News. The latest addition to the list is the current-affairs site Mothership.sg.
Instead of being automatically class-licensed under the Notification (as is currently the case), the news websites subject to the new licensing regime will need to be individually licensed, and have to put up a performance bond of S$50,000 with the MDA. While it is expected that the prevailing content regulation requirements will not change, the new licence will also provide greater clarity on what the MDA would consider prohibited content, and impose a requirement for licensees to comply with the MDA’s direction to remove infringing content within 24 hours.
The new licensing framework invited a considerable amount of criticism from political and social activists, as well as ordinary members of the public. The MDA is currently discussing details of the licensing regime with the three affected companies. It remains to be seen whether the MDA would be forced to address such criticisms in the implementation of the regime.
ii Internet-delivered video content
Given the widespread availability of broadband access in Singapore, internet-delivered or over-the-top (OTT) video content has gained much popularity as compared with broadcast video distribution. The increasing number of consumers accessing internet video content, along with other new media-rich content and applications, has led to an increased demand for bandwidth in Singapore.
There is a general consensus among network operators in Singapore that the demand for bandwidth, including over mobile broadband, would continue to grow steadily. Network operators are still grappling with business models that would allow them to monetise such transmission or otherwise allow them to recoup the investment sunk into infrastructure upgrading to meet such increased bandwidth demand.
iii Mobile services
The growing demand for mobile media services and media-rich services has fuelled the need for mobile broadband access in Singapore. An advanced communications infrastructure (Heterogenous Network (HetNet)) is recognised as a key pillar of one of the strategic thrusts set out in Infocomm Media 2025, building upon one of the key objectives of the iN2015, which was to increase the availability of wired and wireless broadband infrastructure in Singapore (see the Wireless@SG and Next Gen NBN initiatives discussed above).
Despite the higher costs per minute of mobile calls to fixed-line calls, mobile phone subscriptions have been increasing at a steady rate and have far surpassed the number of fixed-line subscriptions. The decrease in fixed-line penetration rates since July 2002 suggests that households may have replaced their fixed lines with their mobile phone lines.
The IDA has also recognised that certain spectrums may require review to address the growing need for spectrum for broadband services and next-generation mobile services.
VI THE YEAR IN REVIEW
i Restructuring of the IDA, MDA and PDPC
As part of the Infocomm Media 2025 plan, the government announced on 18 January 2016 that the IDA, MDA and PDPC will be restructured by the end of 2016 into two new statutory boards, IMDA and GovTech. In anticipation of the formal establishment of the two new agencies, IDA and MDA was administratively reorganised from 1 April 2016. The new IMDA will develop and regulate the converging infocomm and media sectors in a holistic way, and implement the Infocomm Media 2025 plan for Singapore. The new IMDA will also deepen regulatory capabilities for a converged infocomm media sector, safeguarding the interests of consumers and fostering pro-enterprise regulations. The IMDA will take over the regulatory framework currently overseen by the IDA and MDA, such as the Telecoms Act, the Postal Service Act, the Broadcasting Act and the Films Act. The PDPC will form part of the new IMDA, and will continue to oversee personal data protection regulation in Singapore.
GovTech will be established by end 2016, to lead digital technological transformation in the public sector. GovTech will be tasked with building a more intuitive and anticipatory government through digital service delivery with technologies and ensure that people are always at the heart of digital service transformation for the public sector. As the nexus of technology and engineering capability within government, GovTech will be well-placed to help government agencies capitalise on the speed of innovation and new technology trends such as robotics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data. The new organisation will also play a vital role in supporting Singapore’s Smart Nation vision, especially in delivering the Smart Nation Platform and Smart Nation applications. GovTech will also focus on developing new technology capabilities as well as attracting and nurturing ICT engineering talent that will provide a strong foundation for Singapore’s Smart Nation ambitions.
On 16 August 2016, the Parliament passed the Government Technology Agency Bill (GovTech Bill) and Info-communications Media Development Authority Bill (IMDA Bill). The GovTech Bill legislates the creation of GovTech, while the IMDA Bill establishes the IMDA and officially merges certain functions of the IDA with the MDA.
ii Commercial NB-IoT network to be operational by June 2017
M1, in partnership with Nokia, announced on 19 August 2016 that it will roll out its commercial narrow band Internet of Things network (NB-IoT) in Singapore by June 2017. The NB-IoT deployment is expected to support Singapore’s journey to become a Smart Nation underpinned by data to deliver anticipatory services to its people, and drive innovative and effective new fleet management, smart metering, public safety and other smart solutions. M1’s partnership with Nokia follows Singtel’s planned collaboration with Ericsson to trial NB-IoT technology in Singapore in the second half of 2016. NB-IoT networks are designed to deliver improved network performance for M2M (machine-to-machine) communications while delivering the benefits of licensed spectrum such as network reliability and security, and form part of both local telecom operators’ plans to support the expected rapid growth of connected devices in Singapore as Singapore targets 5G availability by 2020.
iii IDA to offer spectrum auction allocation exercise to facilitate entry of fourth mobile telecom company
In an effort to encourage a fourth mobile telecom company to enter the Singapore market, the IDA will hold a highly anticipated New Entrant Spectrum Auction in the third quarter of 2016. This New Entrant Spectrum Auction is open only to interested pre-qualified parties which do not currently operate a nationwide mobile network in Singapore, and will offer a lower starting bid price of S$35 million for the 60MHz of spectrum up for auction. A general spectrum auction for additional spectrum will follow thereafter in the third or fourth quarter of 2016 at a higher reserve price and will be open to the three incumbent mobile telecoms as well as any aspiring new entrants. As of the closing date of submission for the bid on 1 September 2016, three companies had applied to participate in the said auction. A total of 235MHz of spectrum will be made available for mobile services in 2016’s auction exercise. The auctioned spectrum rights will start in April 2017, which is the earliest that any potential new fourth telecom company may begin serving customers. However, it should be noted that previous attempts to lure a fourth mobile operator into the market have so far been unsuccessful.
iv Launch of the Singtel Cyber Security Institute and ST Electronics-SUTD Cyber Security Laboratory
On 13 May 2016, the ST Electronics-SUTD Cyber Security Laboratory was launched, aimed at advancing new frontiers in cybersecurity technologies and building next-generation solutions and products to address Singapore’s current and future cybersecurity challenges. The laboratory will identify current and future cyber solutions, develop cutting-edge technologies and provide proof of concepts and test-beds for the next generation of cybersecurity products and solutions. It follows the 26 April 2016 launch of the Singtel Cyber Security Institute, which contains a state-of-the-art cyber range facility that replicates real ICT environments to help train enterprises to protect their operations against single and multi-vector attack scenarios. The Singtel Cyber Security Institute also provides advanced education and cyber skills development programmes where participants can gain insights into cyber incident response management aspects such as cyber threat awareness, risk management, business continuity planning and crisis communications preparation. The launch of both facilities is in line with Singapore’s efforts to develop a strong pool of cybersecurity talent that is essential to build the dynamic cybersecurity ecosystem required to support Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative.
v Cybersecurity Bill in 2017
Singapore will table a new Cybersecurity Bill in Parliament in 2017 that aims to strengthen Singapore’s laws against online crime. The proposed law will ensure that operators of Singapore’s critical information infrastructure take active steps to secure such systems and report incidents. It will also empower the Cybersecurity Agency to manage cyber incidents and raise the standards of cybersecurity providers in Singapore. This planned strengthening of Singapore’s cybersecurity legislation follows an uptrend in cybercrime in Singapore, with a surge in online cheating scams being a principal reason.
vi Singapore trials world’s first tropical data centre
As part of Singapore’s Smart Nation drive to innovate and explore new green data centre technologies, Singapore has conducted trials with respect to the world’s first tropical data centre. A proof-of-concept tropical data centre will be set up in the third quarter of 2016 within a controlled test environment in a Keppel Data Centre’s facility. This proof-of-concept would aim to prove whether the ambient temperature or humidity of a data centre can be raised, greatly increasing energy efficiency, without significant impact on the critical data centre operations. If successful, tropical data centres could reduce energy consumption by data centres by up to 40 per cent and reduce carbon emissions.
vii World’s first large-scale HetNet public trials closed
The World’s first HetNet public trials were open to members of the public that reside or travel in the Jurong Lake District (Singapore’s designated test-bed for Smart Nation trial) from 28 April 2016 to 30 June 2016. M1, MyRepublic, Singtel and StarHub all participated in the trial in partnership with the IDA. Out of 1,100 members of the public who responded to an on-site survey, 86 per cent were satisfied with the improvements in network performance based on the HetNet deployments. Speed tests conducted at the Jurong East MRT station showed a significant 65.67 per cent improvement in average download speed and 21.21 per cent improvement in upload speed. The IDA aims for HetNet technology to strengthen Singapore’s connectivity framework by allowing the seamless transfer of services across multiple network platforms such as 2G, 3G, 4G, small cell or Wi-Fi in Singapore.
viii Commercial nationwide HetNet rollout
On 19 August 2016, M1 and Nokia announced Singapore’s first commercial HetNet rollout. As part of its HetNet deployment, M1 will progressively roll out an overlay of integrated Nokia’s award-winning Flexi Zone small cells and Wi-Fi equipment across hundreds of high-traffic hotspots in Singapore, to complement M1’s advanced 4G+ network. Through leading-edge LTE-Wi-Fi Aggregation (LWA) technology, M1 expects to deliver peak download speeds of more than 1Gbps by 2017. The rollout follows M1’s successful Hetnet trials conducted early 2016.
ix Wireless@SG to be enhanced
As an instrumental enabler of Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative, the Singapore government announced a doubling of the surfing speeds of Singapore’s free public Wi-Fi service Wireless@SG to 5Mbps by end 2016, and a doubling of the number of Wireless@SG hotspots to 20,000 by 2018. At 5Mbps, the new Wireless@SG will be slightly faster than the average 3G connection in Singapore. The increase in the number of hotspots will also provide Singapore with the highest hotspot density in the world (it is currently second to Tokyo), calculated by the number of hotspots per inhabitant. The government also hopes that Wireless@SG will benefit low-income users and help existing efforts to bridge the digital divide.
x MCI public consultation on proposed amendments to the Telecommunications Act and Media Development Authority of Singapore Act
The MCI undertook an online public consultation exercise on proposed amendments to the Telecoms Act and the Media Development Authority of Singapore Act in August 2016. The objectives of the proposed amendments are to: (1) enhance the process of deploying telecommunications systems; (2) introduce a new alternate dispute resolution regime for disputes between customers and telecommunications companies; (3) strengthen the IDA’s oversight of the telecommunications industry; and (4) provide greater clarity to specific provisions in the Telecoms Act. The consultation closed 31 August 2016.
xi IDA announces new 4G Quality of Standards
On 1 June 2016, IDA announced new 4G Quality of Service (QoS) standards for compliance to ensure mobile phone users experience an acceptable level of service quality in Singapore. The 4G QoS are imposed on Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) providing 4G services in Singapore and relate to the pervasiveness of mobile coverage in Singapore, which includes outdoor areas, tunnels and within building premises. The new standards are similar to the 3G QoS standards that were enhanced in 2012, and IDA will concurrently impose both sets of QoS standards on the MNOs.
xii MDA announces new enhanced consumer protection measures for the pay-TV sector in the MMCC
Following an industry and public consultation on consumer protection measures in the MMCC, the MDA announced new measures to enhance consumer protection in the pay-TV sector that took effect April 2016. Pay-TV operators must now allow consumers to exit their fixed-term contracts without paying early termination charges if certain unilateral changes that are detrimental to the subscribers are made by the operators. Pay-TV operators are also barred from forcing subscribers to upgrade their non pay-TV services (such as broadband or phone service contracts) to make changes to their pay-TV services. Pay-TV operators will also be required to provide consumers with a critical information summary highlighting the important terms and conditions in a clear and accurate manner, along with a written copy of the contract within 14 days of contracting. In addition, pay-TV operators should retain records of their marketing materials and consumers’ confirmation of having understood the contract terms.
xiii New and updated personal data protection advisory guidelines
The PDPC published new advisory guidelines relating to the enforcement of the data protection obligations in the PDPA on 21 April 2016. The Advisory Guidelines on the Enforcement of the Data Protection Provisions clarify the objectives and approach the PDPC will take when enforcing the Act, including how the PDPC will decide whether or not to investigate a complaint, the directions and penalties the PDPC can impose following the conclusion of an investigation, and the procedures relating to the reconsideration of a decision or direction of a decision issued by the PDPC as well as in respect of appeals and the rights of private action by an aggrieved individual or organisation.
On 20 July 2016, the PDPC published three new advisory guidelines to help organisations better protect personal data in compliance with the PDPA. The Guide To Disposal of Personal Data On Physical Medium recommends good practices that organisations should adopt to ensure that personal data on paper and electronic records are rendered unreadable and irretrievable respectively. The Guide On Data Protection Clauses For Agreements Relating To The Processing Of Personal Data provides sample data protection clauses that organisations may consider adopting in their service agreements with the contractors engaged to provide data processing services on the organisations’ behalf. The Guide On Building Websites For SMEs aims to assist small and medium-sized enterprises building a website to ensure that websites which collect, use, disclose and store personal data are compliant with the PDPA and can be used by business owners to guide their discussion with their IT vendors. The PDPC also published a revised version of the Guide on Securing Personal Data in Electronic Medium with an updated list of good and enhanced practices that organisations should adopt in securing their electronic personal data.
xiv Personal Data Protection Act enforcement actions
On 21 April 2016, the PDPC released details of nine enforcement actions it had taken against organisations relating to the breach of the personal data protection obligations under the Act. The penalties imposed ranged from warnings for failure to obtain consent or put in place reasonable security measures to prevent the disclosure of personal data, to the imposition of financial penalties against organisations for more serious breaches of the protection and openness data protection obligations, and varied depending on the aggravating or mitigating factors of each case. Aggravating factors in favour of a financial penalty included a data breach involving a large amount of sensitive personal data, and the organisation not being forthcoming in providing information during the PDPC investigation. Conversely, mitigating factors against imposing a financial penalty included that the organisation’s remedial actions post-data breach were fair and prompt.
xv Singapore and US sign memorandum of understanding to foster greater collaboration and promote technology partnerships in third-party markets
Singapore and the United States signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on 2 August 2016 to foster greater collaboration and promote technology partnerships between Singapore and US companies in third-party markets. The MOU establishes a Singapore–US Collaboration Platform that will focus on opportunities in the infrastructure sector, which includes smart city solutions as well as the digital infrastructure that supports the e-commerce and financial technology (fintech) sectors.
xvi New IDA Cloud Outage Incident Response Guidelines
The IDA published the new Cloud Outage Incident Response Guidelines (COIR Guidelines) on 26 February 2016. The COIR Guidelines are industry agnostic and are aimed at cloud service providers, all types of users of such cloud services and regulators. The COIR Guidelines set out the requirements which will help cloud service providers and users plan for and mitigate the threat of cloud outages. The IDA has stated that it is working to turn the COIR Guidelines into a Singapore Standard and aims for the COIR Guidelines together with other cloud-related standards such as the Multi-Tier Cloud Security Singapore Standard, to help drive the adoption of cloud services in Singapore.
xvii World’s first driverless taxi trial
On 25 August 2016, Singapore became the first country in the world to have on-demand driverless taxis for the public, with the rollout of nuTonomy’s limited service as part of a public road-test trial. Select members of the public would be able to use a smartphone app to summon nuTonomy’s self-driving vehicle for free rides to one of 12 locations in the One-North business district. The aim of the trial is to allow the evaluation of software system performance, vehicle routing efficiency, the vehicle booking process and overall passenger experience before its 2018 commercial launch.
xviii Internet access on work computers for public servants to be cut
On 7 June 2016, public servants in Singapore were informed that internet access from their work computers would be blocked from May 2017 in an effort to segregate secure government email systems and guard against the clear and present threat of espionage and criminal activity on the internet. The measures will progressively apply to all 100,000 public servants’ computers. Public servants will still, however, be able to access the internet on their personal devices or respective agency-issued devices (which are not connected to secure government systems). Dedicated internet terminals will also be set up for use.
VII CONCLUSIONS AND OUTLOOK
As can be seen from the foregoing, Singapore’s key strength lies in its foresight and strategic planning capabilities. Among other factors, the new restructured IMDA is expected to strengthen and develop regulatory capabilities for a converged infocomm and media sector in a holistic manner, and further Singapore’s goal of establishing a value-creating economy that is well-positioned to leverage growing opportunities in the convergent telecommunications, media and technology sphere. As a small island nation, Singapore has also effectively leveraged on its size, and has successfully implemented and continued to improve a number of ambitious nationwide projects, such as Wireless@SG and the Next Gen NBN initiatives.
The ubiquity of ultra-high-speed broadband access, coupled with the drive to promote next-generation interactive multimedia applications and services delivered through the internet protocol television (IPTV) platform, heralds an exciting period of transition into a new generation of services for both businesses and consumers. This can be seen from the steadily increasing take-up rate of total optical fibre broadband, which as at June 2015 stood at approximately 1 million subscribers.
For Singapore to compete effectively at the global level, the government recognises that a seamless, trusted and intelligent infocomm infrastructure will be crucial. The government has encouraged the IDA, Economic Development Board and JTC Corporation to team up to establish a data centre park in Singapore so as to attract multinational corporations and other premium data centre operations to Singapore, and to strengthen its position as an economic hub. Telekomunikasi Indonesia International Pte Ltd (Telin Singapore), which is part of Indonesia’s largest telecommunications group PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia, Tbk (Telkom Group), has already taken possession of a greenfield plot and the park is targeted to be operational by December 2016. The Prime Minister’s Office has set up a Smart Nation Programme Office that aims to bring citizens, the government and industry players together to identify issues, co-develop solutions, prototype ideas and deploy them effectively to transform Singapore into a ‘Smart Nation’. This initiative focuses on the development of infocomm-based integrated networks, capabilities and solutions for urban environments with a systems-of-systems approach that enables synergies within the whole government, and integrated insights that will contribute to the optimisation of key national resources across interdependent and inter-related city systems. The Smart Nation vision aims to harness ICT, networks and data to support better living and stronger communities, and to create more opportunities.
Further, Singapore has enacted an overarching data protection law in the form of the PDPA, which should help to strengthen and enhance Singapore’s position as a trusted data hub. We believe that the PDPA strikes the right balance in protecting the interests of consumers against the need for businesses to collect, use and disclose personal data. The PDPC has also released a number of advisory guidelines to guide and inform organisations and individuals on data privacy, use, collection and disclosure. The PDPA will enable Singapore to exploit growing opportunities in the world of Big Data, and allow businesses to harness value from information, arguably the most precious commodity in this era.
1 Ken Chia is a principal and Seng Yi Lin is a local principal at Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow.
3 The MCI was previously known as the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, but was renamed with effect from November 2012 with the formation of a new Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.