SingTel – BT

SingTel posts highest subscriber gain

Exclusive handset deals and aggressive mobile promotions continue to make more consumers ‘see red’, with Singapore Telecom chalking up the biggest subscriber gain among the three local operators in the first quarter of this year.

The country’s largest telco said yesterday that it added 34,000 new mobile customers in Q1, to take its Singapore cellular base to 2.98 million.

In contrast, rival StarHub gained 16,000 new mobile subscribers in Q1, while MobileOne lost 11,000 customers.

With the Q1 addition, SingTel has increased its market share three percentage points from last year to 46.4 per cent.

The company’s winning streak was fuelled partly by its exclusive tie-up for coveted handsets such as Apple’s iPhone 3G. And in February this year it got first bite at Singapore’s first ‘Google phone’, a touch-screen handset from Taiwanese maker HTC.

SingTel’s gains, however, could not mask the underlying trend that the island’s mobile market is finally cooling off after years of sizzling growth.

Statistics from the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore show the cellular penetration rate grew a mere 1.3 per cent to 132.6 per cent in Q109. In the same period last year, the growth was twice as high at 3.5 per cent.

Amid the deep recession, even defensive plays such as telcos are feeling the pinch, with StarHub citing lower voice usage and international calls as key reasons for a drop in its mobile earnings last week.

On a regional level, SingTel, which reports its full-year results today, grew its mobile base by 17 million sequentially to end-Q1 with a combined customer base of 249 million. Its Australian unit Optus contributed 156,000 new subscribers to the overall tally.

Among its six regional associates, India’s Bharti recorded the biggest increase, growing its subscriber count 9.7 per cent or 9.3 million from the previous quarter to 93.9 million.

In Indonesia, Telkomsel added 6.8 million subscribers during the quarter.

SingTel’s Thai and Philippine associates – AIS and Globe – increased their subscriber bases by 112,000 and 1.04 million during the quarter, while Warid and PBTL reported quarterly gains of 462,000 and 64,000 respectively in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

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