What’s wrong with “Singtel”?

TL;DR – It’s not very “Sing” and not just “Tel”.

Singapore Telecommunications Limited, or more commonly known as Singtel, is one of Singapore’s largest listed companies. It’s a leading telecom company in Singapore. Like it or hate it, many Singaporeans use its service. It may be as a mobile subscriber or as a broadband subscriber. It has 47% of the mobile market and 43% of the broadband market in Singapore.

Young NTUC organised a learning journey to Singtel earlier this year for young working people to have a peek at what possibly could be the jobs of the future (Photo: Young NTUC)

But it would be completely wrong to think that Singtel operates mainly in Singapore. Singtel has expanded aggressively outside its home market and owns shares in many regional operators, including 100% of the second largest Australian telco, Optus. Through its aggressive expansion, it has a mobile subscriber base of 600 million customers in 25 countries.

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That makes it the second largest mobile operator in the world, behind China Mobile.

Wow. Bet you didn’t know that.

So you see, Singtel isn’t very “Sing“. But what about the “tel” part? Surely that is correct, right?

Beyond “tel”

Well, it is… to some extent. Its group Consumer business unit is Singtel’s largest business unit, accounting for 61.3% of total revenue. It comprises Singtel’s consumer businesses in Singapore and Australia and also their investments in regional telecommunication companies in Thailand, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Africa. These businesses provide services like mobile, pay TV, fixed broadband, voice data, and sales of equipment.

But that business unit also includes Singtel’s 23% stake in Singapore Post Limited. That part of the business certainly isn’t just telecoms. And that’s not the only part of Singtel’s business that isn’t just telecoms. Singtel has two other business units – Group Enterprise and Group Digital Life.

Singtel’s Group Enterprise business unit contributes about 37% of Singtel’s revenue. It provides IT solutions to the government and corporates, with a strong presence in the Asia Pacific region. Its services can be categorised into three segments:

  • Cyber security – Cyber threats are a serious issue and cybersecurity is now of paramount importance. Singtel aims to be a leading global cyber security service provider to enterprises and governments by partnering with cybersecurity firms like Akamai and FireEye.
  • Enterprise cloud services – This segment provides a suite of cloud services for enterprises in order to help them to reduce costs, improve productivity, and improve innovation.
  • Smart cities – With Singapore transforming into a smart nation. Singtel has positioned itself to develop innovative solutions for the smart nation programme in Singapore and across the region.

Singtel’s Group Digital Life business unit is currently Singtel’s smallest business unit. It currently contributes only 2% of Singtel’s revenue. But Singtel views it as the next phase of growth as people become more and more interconnected through the Internet. Singtel has positioned themselves in three areas, premium video streaming, digital marketing, and data analytics, through these three brands:

  • HOOQ is a mobile video streaming services that provides video entertainment and content to subscribers for a fee. The business model is similar to Netflix in the United States (but on mobile). So far, Singtel has launched HOOQ in Thailand, Philippines and India.
  • Amobee. The growing trend in digital advertising has caused a dent in traditional advertising platforms like television and radio. In order to ride on this, Singtel acquired Amobee in 2012. Amobee is a US company that specializes in mobile advertising and offers its solutions to mobile operators, publishers and advertisers.
  • DataSpark is a company that specializes in geoanalytics. For instance, it is able to gather information on where, when and how people move along in a mall. With this data, mall operators and retailers are able to formulate strategies to better serve their shoppers and customers.

Singtel’s journey sounds like it’s aligned to the CFE report

The entourage from Young NTUC listening attentively to the various Singtel representatives who shared the current and future growth engines of Singtel (Photo: Young NTUC)

We visited Singtel’s Future Innovation Centre at the invitation of Young NTUC recently. We got to see some of the rather cool technology that Singtel is developing. It ranges from mobile networks, which is well within its core business (i.e. the “tel” part), to things which you wouldn’t normally think a telco would be involved in. These includes robotics, cyber security, and augmented reality technology.

And as we walked through the different exhibits, we couldn’t help but think about how Singtel’s journey into being not just “Sing” and not just “tel” sounds a lot like some of the key strategies from the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE).

Can’t remember the seven strategies in the CFE recommendations? Haha, we don’t blame you, that’s one very convoluted report. I’d just written about how Minister Chan Chun Sing had simplified all seven strategies and explained them in a nutshell trimaran. Remember this sailboat?

Minister Chan Chun Sing used this trimaran image to simplify the seven strategies from the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) recommendations. We took the liberty of adding our own notes to the visual (via)

So, as you can see, Singtel has internationalised its business, innovated, and built strong digital capabilities. It is contributing to Singapore’s development as a vibrant and connected city of opportunity. There, all three boxes of the growth strategies – City, Internationalisation and Digitalisation – checked.

Singtel is also part of a tripartite partnership that is enabling growth and innovation in Singapore. It has a Cyber Security Conversion Programme. IT professionals who are seeking for an opportunity to specialise in Cyber Security can join the programme and be provided on-the-job training and upskill for a cyber security role. Given the demand for cyber security professionals, those who go through the programme will certainly have a bright future.

Young NTUC organises learning journeys to different companies for young working people to experience different industries and also to better prepare them for jobs of the future (Photo: Young NTUC)

Singtel looks like a great an example of how a Singapore company can thrive and lead in the future economy. Let’s hope that we have more companies, of different sizes, that can be more like Singtel  – innovate, scale up, and internationalise, while helping Singaporeans develop the skills necessary for good quality jobs of today and tomorrow.



Author: Jake Koh

Recovering sushi addict, I’m a man of mystery and power, whose power is exceeded only by his mystery.


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