Singapore’s Ministry for Communications and Information has announced plans to restructure telecoms regulator the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and the Media Development Authority (MDA) to create two new entities: the Infocommunications Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the Government Technology Organisation (GTO). Once legislative amendments have been made to recognize the new agencies, the change will commence on April 1, 2016 and be fully implemented by 2H16.
By merging regulators, Singapore can better respond to the convergence of media and telecoms
The restructuring of Singapore’s telecoms and media regulators follows the publication of the integrated Infocomm Media 2025 masterplan in 2015. The masterplan focuses on ensuring that Singapore can capitalize on the growing convergence of areas such as pay-TV and telecoms. The merging of the two authorities is the logical next step and reflects the additional responsibilities IDA has taken on in recent times, such as cybersecurity and data protection. A merger will help to streamline processes and create a consistent regulatory framework, avoiding any overlap between regulators so that businesses will only have to go to one body for licenses.
IMDA will be tasked with ensuring the rollout of the latest ten-year roadmap for telecoms and media. It will prioritize pro-enterprise regulations; safeguarding consumers; and amending the Broadcasting Act. The CEO of the MDA, Gabriel Lim, is expected to take up the position of leading IMDA. The GTO – headed by the managing director of IDA, Jacqueline Poh – will lead public sector digital transformation, in areas such as big data and IoT. It will also replace IDA’s Government Chief Information Office, supporting the country’s Smart Nation project.
The new authorities already have a firm regulatory environment to build on. Singapore scored highly in Ovum’s Regulatory Scorecard 2016, having been included in the analysis for the first time. It consistently scored better than others in the South-East Asia region, particularly in the areas of spectrum policy and consumer protection. However, the scorecard also highlights key areas where the new regulators could make improvements – for example, by introducing rules on transparency of traffic management and allocating the 700MHz band at the earliest opportunity. The restructure could be an ideal time to tackle these issues which have so far not been fully addressed by IDA.
As Singapore aims to become the most technologically advanced nation in the world, IMDA will need to ensure that new technology is deployed effectively and that uptake rates are high. Despite the government’s heavy investment in rolling out next-generation networks, fiber broadband subscriptions remain low in comparison to total broadband base. Of the total broadband subscriptions in 2015 (which includes xDSL, cable, leased lines, 3G, 3.5G/HSDPA, 4G/LTE, and WiMAX) only 7.5% were fiber, which equates to 61% of total fixed broadband subscriptions. Additionally, in order to support the Smart Nation initiative, the GTO will need to ensure that scarce spectrum resources are effectively allocated.
Regulatory Scorecard 2016: South-East Asia, TE0007-000968 (January 2016)
Singapore (Country Regulation Overview), TE0007-000942 (October 2015)
Sarah McBride, Analyst, Regulation