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    Jan 22, 2015

    Charge content providers, says Singtel CEO again

    SINGTEL chief executive Chua Sock Koong has reiterated her belief that telcos should be allowed to charge major Internet content providers - like WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube - for consumers to have faster access to their content.

    "If network owners do not upgrade their network, OTT (over-the-top) content players cannot deliver a good experience to their customers," Ms Chua said during the unveiling of the telco's new logo yesterday. OTT services are not distributed by telcos, but reach consumers via telcos' fixed broadband and mobile networks.

    Pointing to the United States, where video streaming service provider Netflix pays broadband provider Comcast for a speed boost, she noted: "(If) you want to deliver (high) quality video, you want to buy some capacity wholesale."

    Ms Chua expects more of such arrangements to be set up over time. "Doing these wholesale deals is not new...It is something that telcos have been doing all the time," she added, downplaying the issue as unrelated to "Net neutrality".

    US President Barack Obama is pushing for rules to protect Net neutrality - the belief that all data on the Internet is to be treated equally, with telcos being banned from creating cyber "fast lanes" for the highest bidders.

    But Ms Chua gave an assurance that "you will see us...carrying all content". Her first public call for regulators to allow telcos to charge for such fast lanes was made in February at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

    It stemmed from telcos losing business to OTT providers, which get away with not paying for using their infrastructure.

    Her comments drew criticism from netizens concerned that Singtel might charge subscribers for using popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp.

    Singtel later clarified that it was not planning to charge users of these services separately.

    Yesterday, Singtel pledged new service commitments to customers, promising shorter waits when they get a new device or line.

    Its website now allows customers to make appointments or reserve a handset to be picked up at any of the 10 Singtel shops islandwide.

    They will receive a priority queue number when they show up for their appointments.

    From March, customers can request call-backs by hotline officers at their preferred times.

    From April, the telco will shorten the window for its technicians to show up at homes or offices to install equipment to 30 minutes, from two hours.