StarHub, SingTel – BT

StarHub stirs up the storm over set-top box

It hits back at SingTel and refutes technology claims

A small set-top box has managed to open up a Pandora’s Box in the local pay-TV sector, as the question of whose hardware to use turns into an open spat between Singapore’s big two.

In the latest development, StarHub yesterday refuted SingTel’s assertion that the green camp’s cable television customers will have to upgrade their set-top boxes when Singapore’s nationwide fibre-optic network starts to kick in from the first quarter of 2010.

‘StarHub would like to make it clear that we completely disagree with any claims about technological reasons for not accepting our recent proposal (to carry some of each other’s programming to get around the need for two set-top boxes),’ StarHub said in a statement.

‘And it is not true that StarHub TV customers must upgrade their set-top box next year for the NGNBN (Next-Generation National Broadband Network),’ the statement added.

On Wednesday, SingTel Singapore CEO Allen Lew said StarHub’s current cable TV box is not compatible with the new broadband highway and consumers should bear this in mind when assessing StarHub’s shared-programming idea to get around the hassle of having two set-top boxes.

StarHub’s rebuttal came a day after it officially tabled an offer to SingTel to carry the latter’s English Premier League and ESPN Star Sports content. From mid-next year, these will be shown over SingTel’s mio TV platform after Singapore’s largest telco clinched the broadcast rights for the programmes last month.

StarHub is touting its shared-programming offer as an interim solution to resolve the double set-top box issue while the government looks into the longer-term possibility of hardware standardisation.

Mr Lew also said on Wednesday that SingTel needs to ‘amortise’ the investment it has sunk into rolling out its own pay-TV infrastructure and that StarHub’s offer came ‘three years too late’.

StarHub said yesterday: ‘References to what could have been proposed three years ago have no relevance. We could say the same about a number of things in the telco space that our competitors could have done over the past 10 years that would have made the playing field more level.

‘The sub-agenda for each of us is transparent. Each operator would like to have its set-top box as the preferred box in the home. That is one reason why StarHub is making the proposal, and the only reason why our competitor would not accept it.’

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