SingTel – BT

SingTel to hang on to iPhone monopoly

SINGAPORE Telecommunications will continue to be the only local telco to be given a bite at the iPhone 3G as a change in Apple’s distribution strategy has thwarted the year-end launch plans of rivals StarHub and MobileOne.

‘As we have been advised that there has been a change in the distribution schedule of the iPhone in Asia, this is likely to affect M1’s plans to sell the device by the end of the year,’ a company spokesman told BT.

Similarly, StarHub also confirmed that it will not be able to bring in the second-generation Apple touch-screen handset by 2008.

‘It appears the launch (of the iPhone) will not take place this year. They (Apple) have their priorities for signing on distributors,’ StarHub CEO Terry Clontz told reporters during a phone briefing for the firm’s third-quarter results yesterday.

With Singapore’s small mobile customer base and the existing SingTel agreement, Apple is focusing its efforts on other countries where the iPhone has yet to make its debut, he explained.

Despite this development, Mr Clontz maintained that the iPhone deal is ‘non-exclusive’ here and the coveted gadget will be carried by other operators in future, a move which is consistent with other countries such as Australia and the United States.

Apple ditched its once-exclusive partnership approach when it unveiled the iPhone 3G and started working with multiple players to drive mass consumer take-up of the new device.

When SingTel launched the iPhone locally on Aug 22, both StarHub and M1 said they were confident of breaking the product monopoly by the end of the year and advised consumers to hold out for better deals.

Mr Clontz admitted that StarHub ‘did see an impact’ on its mobile business shortly after SingTel’s iPhone introduction but claims the pent-up demand for the handset has since subsided.

To forestall the competition, SingTel is halving the monthly fees for its iPhone subscription plans in Singapore for three months to draw a second wave of buyers and encourage more defections from rival camps.

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