On February 18th, IDA released its framework for an upcoming major spectrum award in Singapore later in 2016. Spectrum in the 700 MHz band, 900 MHz band as well as 2.3GHz and 2.5 GHz bands will be offered.

This spectrum award in Singapore is particularly interesting as, in fact, IDA plans two separate auctions including a very sizeable spectrum set aside of 60 MHz, which will no doubt be a major asset to fully establish a fourth MNO.

The first auction will determine which company will acquire the 60 MHz set aside spectrum to become the fourth MNO. There will only be one new MNO licensed. The 60 MHz spectrum set aside is split among 20 MHz for FDD in the 900 MHz band and 40 MHz  for TDD in the 2.3 GHz band.

IDA states the IoT and M2M communications as part of the reasons it envisions that a fourth MNO would see significant business opportunities in Singapore. It is therefore no surprise to see that key players interested in becoming this fourth MNO include fibre broadband provider MyRepublic (started in 2011 by ex StarHub executives) and Consistel’s OMGTel. However, the fourth MNO will be require to provide both voice and SMS in addition to mobile broadband services. Increasing coverage requirements starting 18 months after after the start of the spectrum rights will also apply.

IDA will conduct extensive pre-qualifications of the participants in the auction for set aside spectrum. Detailed requirements for applicants to be pre-qualified will be published at a later date. A performance bond and banker’s guarantee will also be included in the requirements.

The spectrum set aside auction will be conducted as an ascending round auction.

The 700 MHz spectrum will only be auctioned in the second general auction, in addition to  spectrum in the 900 MHz band as well as in the 2.5 GHz band. The second auction will be open to all incumbents M1, Singtel and Starhub, as well as to the fourth MNO. Auction spectrum caps will be applied in the general auction ranging from a total of 85 MHz to 105 MHz depending on what happens with the fourth MNO.

The general auction will be conducted using a Clock Plus format, which includes an initial offer, a Quantity stage (the clock phase) and an assignment phase. The amount of spectrum to be offered will range from 175 MHz to 235 MHz depending on the success of licensing for a fourth MNO.

IDA references auctions with spectrum set aside for new entrants in France, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Austria as well as Ireland to justify its decision for a set aside. There were spectrum set asides used in the past in the UK and in Canada to introduce new MNOs, among others. The Forward Auction of the USA Incentive auction also has a spectrum set aside that may kick-in for new entrants or MNOs that have no or little low band spectrum, depending on how the auction proceeds.