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MANY consumers in Singapore already know they cannot live without a broadband Internet connection, but now there are official figures to prove it.
The Straits Times - July 9, 2011
By: Irene Tham
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Skype me When Mr Koh meets clients, he powers up his laptop and iPad - both connected to the Internet wirelessly via a 3G SIM card encased in a plastic dongle. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

MANY consumers in Singapore already know they cannot live without a broadband Internet connection, but now there are official figures to prove it.

In local households, a wired broadband service - delivered over telephone lines or cable connections - is now as common as a fixed telephone line.

And Singapore consumers now have almost as many wireless broadband subscriptions as mobile phone lines.

This is what the various 'penetration rates' - to use the industry jargon - show, according to new data released by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).

The numbers show just how pervasive broadband Internet has become, not just for individuals who are increasingly accessing it on devices like smartphones but also in homes where a connection is shared among family members.

At 103 per cent penetration, or 1.2 million subscriptions, wired broadband's reach among homes here is similar to the 105 per cent of households with fixed phone lines.

'Internet access has become a way of life here - be it to access government services and general information, or as an educational tool for kids,' said Mr Ramakrishna Maruvada, head of South-east Asia and India telecoms research at Daiwa Institute of Research.

This has made an Internet connection at home far more essential than a fixed phone line for consumers like communications consultant Jacqueline Yeo, 38.

She gave up her SingTel landline four years ago. Most of her friends and business contacts reach her on her mobile phone and via Internet messaging tools like Facebook and Yahoo! Messenger, and voice applications like Skype.

'Sometimes it's easier to reach people this way than call them at home,' said Ms Yeo.

Looking ahead, research firm Gartner expects the penetration rate of wired broadband to eclipse that of home phone lines as early as next year.

'People use broadband for so many things - surfing, gaming and paying bills - and not just to make phone calls,' said Gartner principal analyst Shalini Verma.

But home phone lines are not about to disappear from the market altogether because of senior citizens, she noted.

Also, service providers like SingTel and StarHub now throw in a free digital home phone line as part of their broadband packages - though it is unclear if these lines are included in the IDA's calculations to determine fixed line telephony's household reach.

Unlike wired broadband which is delivered to homes, wireless broadband is delivered directly to individuals via devices like smartphones and tablet PCs which access the Internet though Wi-Fi networks and 3G data connections.

With 138 per cent penetration of Singapore's population - or more than seven million subscriptions - wireless broadband is now almost as common as mobile phone lines, which have a penetration rate of 146 per cent.

Analysts said the growth of wireless broadband has been driven by the increasing use of smartphones.

According to Gartner, nine in 10 new mobile phones sold in Singapore are now smartphones. Another survey by market research company TNS has found that 72 per cent of the 7.3 million mobile phones here are smartphones.

Also, a rising proportion of customers have more than one wireless broadband connection, explaining why the penetration rate is more than 100 per cent.

'This can be explained by multiple device ownership - of smartphones, tablets and laptops,' said Mr Ryan Tay, research manager of communications at IDC Asia-Pacific.

Business development director Aaron Koh, 35, is one such connected individual. The self-professed 'road warrior' carries an Apple iPad, a Samsung laptop and an Apple iPhone to work every day.

When meeting clients, he powers up his laptop and iPad - both connected to the Internet wirelessly via a 3G SIM card encased in a plastic dongle. When he is on a train, he uses a second wireless broadband connection on his iPhone to check his e-mail.

The latest IDA figures put Singapore among the most Internet-connected nations by most measures, reckon analysts. This is even though methodologies vary on how to calculate broadband penetration.

According to Gartner, South Korea led the world in fixed broadband with 93 per cent of its households wired up last year. It was followed by the Netherlands (87 per cent), Denmark and Switzerland (both 78 per cent) and Hong Kong (77 per cent).

itham@sph.com.sg

1.22 MILLION
Total residential fixed phone line subscriptions

104.9%
Fixed phone line household penetration rate

7.41 MILLION
Total mobile phone subscriptions (2G and 3G)

146.1%
Mobile phone penetration rate by population

1.2 MILLION
Total residential wired broadband subscriptions

102.7%
Residential wired broadband penetration rate by households

7 MILLION
Total wireless broadband subscription

138.3%
Wireless broadband penetration rate by population

 

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