SingTel – BT

iTunes off, SingTel turns up the music

Singapore Telecommunications aims to fill the local absence of Apple’s wildly popular iTunes music store with a string of new tie-ups that could more than double the repertoire of its free song download service.

‘This year, you will see us announcing partnerships with other music labels,’ said Yuan Kuan Moon, SingTel’s consumer chief and CEO of its mobile division.

‘We are in the final closing stage of negotiations,’ he told BT in an interview last week.

The upcoming deals, which could include alliances with music giants Warner, Sony Music and even smaller independent labels, will greatly expand the library of songs that are offered under Amped. This is the digital music store the operator opened to much fanfare in June last year.

Amped currently serves up a musical buffet of nearly 500,000 songs from Universal Music artistes such as Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga.

Consumers who sign up for selected price plans are given the additional perk of being able to download these tracks to their phones for free.

‘We have 150,000 customers on Amped already. That is an extremely good response given it’s only been one year (since the launch),’ Mr Yuan said.

‘A feedback we got is that we have only half a million songs. Once we have all these record labels on board, this (Amped) will become your de facto music player,’ he added.

SingTel Amped is the country’s third legitimate music download service, but it is the only one to support handsets from different manufacturers.

Only Nokia phone users are allowed access to its Comes With Music offering and the same applies to Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow Plus music service.

Within Asia, Apple’s popular iTunes Music store is open for business only in Australia and Japan, as piracy concerns continue to keep its doors shut to consumers in other parts of the region.

SingTel initially tried to offer Amped on as many phones as it could, but it has since changed tack to bundle the service with selected smart phones.

‘The user experience wasn’t as good (on certain phones),’ Mr Yuan explained.

Besides music, SingTel is looking to dial into the booming market for mobile games to boost its cellular revenue.

However, instead of developing its own titles, the operator is trying to work with application store owners such as Nokia and Google on integrated billing arrangements, he revealed.

This means that customer downloads can be automatically charged to a consumer’s phone bill, freeing the handset makers from the burden of maintaining their own payment systems.

‘We want to make sure we tap ourselves into big ecosystems,’ Mr Yuan stressed.

Despite Singapore’s sky-high mobile penetration rate of nearly 140 per cent, SingTel still added 25,000 postpaid cellular subscribers to bring its tally to 1.62 million at the end of March.

With the growing use of mobile broadband and the arrival of new gadgets such as the Apple iPad, Mr Yuan is confident that the firm’s cellular base will continue to swell.

‘There will still be growth because we are not looking at pure population penetration. We are looking at a single user with multiple devices,’ he said.

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