The infocommunications industry in Singapore is constantly evolving, and the company is facing considerable changes in the way customers consume entertainment, data and lifestyle services. The entry of new competitors – many of them OTT players, and the pricing pressures from existing competitors mean that StarHub needs to rapidly change the way we operate.
It is imperative to move beyond a Hubbing strategy. The company must move beyond the bundling of services to reflect the many changing tastes and business models in the industry. With that in mind, the creation of our Strategic Transformation programme is designed to allow StarHub to rapidly transform our operations, evolve our own internal culture and meet the challenges we face head on.
Four key strategic thrusts have shaped StarHub’s actions in 2018 and beyond. To summarise, we aim to: Deliver market-leading customer experiences that go beyond our customers’ expectations; Accelerate value creation of our core business and ensuring our business fundamentals remain strong; Realise high-potential growth opportunities that go beyond our core services; and Enhance efforts to digital transform internally to improve customer experience and overall operational efficiencies.
In January 2018, following a successful two-year collaboration, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and StarHub renewed and deepened their strategic partnership for a further two-year term. The two companies will continue their tie-up in advertising sales, content creation and distribution, data analytics, and marketing, bringing several integrated multi-platform advertising packages to the market.
Both companies have also collaborated in new areas such as healthcare; for example, the provision of StarHub’s connectivity and digital solutions to SPH and its affiliates (including Orange Valley Healthcare and Han Language Centre). In May, SPH subsidiary Orange Valley Nursing Homes, started testing aged-care technologies with StarHub and ST Engineering for its new smart nursing home in Balestier.
StarHub continued to upgrade our cellular network to support peak 4G speeds of 1Gbps from the previous 400Mbps – a first in Singapore. As a testament to our efforts, StarHub clocked Singapore’s fastest mobile speeds, according to OpenSignal’s independent analysis.
We also upgraded our network to enable Narrowband-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) as part of our support of Singapore’s Smart Nation drive. At the same time, StarHub conducted the first outdoor pilot of 5G New Radio on 3.5GHz spectrum, in preparation for future implementation of 5G in the coming years.
StarHub aims to simplify choices for our mobile customers to give a better customer experience, while on the technological front, boosting our mobile network capabilities to give customers higher data transmission speeds.
Looking at the Mobile revenue in 2018, it declined 8% to $825 million due to lower IDD, excess data usage revenue and a higher mix of SIM Only plans. Mobile market penetration continues to be high at 147%. On the other hand, StarHub’s postpaid customer base increased 2% to 1.4 million. Prepaid customer base stands at 788,000, a decline of 16% YoY. Average smartphone data usage was at 5.6GB, an increase of 33% from the previous year.
Starting in April 2018, StarHub Mobile postpaid customers were able to stream content on FOX+ without incurring any local data charges, allowing them to binge-watch over 10,000 hours of fresh, original and exclusive content. This is part of a collaboration between FOX Networks Group and StarHub to make the service accessible to all in Singapore.
With this initiative, our customers can stream the latest TV series the same day as the US, catch first-run Hollywood blockbuster titles and indulge in documentaries from the National Geographic Channel.
Fans of Asian entertainment also have easy access to blockbuster films, popular dramas and hit variety shows from Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan, and sports fans will be able to view the live stream of FOX Sports channels in HD.
In May, StarHub and MyRepublic formed a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) partnership that enabled MyRepublic to offer mobile services to Singapore customers, using StarHub’s mobile network infrastructure. Just before the end of the year, StarHub’s second MVNO partner VivoHub started offering mobile services aimed at migrant workers. These partnerships mean that customers get more choices and give StarHub the ability to address additional customer segment needs.
In 2018, StarHub began offering our Mobile postpaid customers the option to pay for App Store, Apple Music and iTunes purchases directly through their monthly mobile postpaid bill. Customers also enjoy the convenience of direct carrier billing on three other app stores – Google Play, Microsoft and Xbox Store and Huawei AppGallery.
Direct carrier billing is a payment method that allows customers to enjoy one-tap purchase of apps, games, music and videos across their devices, including smartphones, wearables, laptops and consoles.
In August, all existing and new StarHub mobile postpaid customers began enjoying free local data access (excluding video content) to four SPH mobile apps for the next two years. The apps are namely Lianhe Zaobao, The Business Times, The Straits Times and SPH Radio.
In October, we became the first operator in Singapore to offer prepaid customers free local outgoing calls every day, as long as they have an active data plan. Heavy users can save on daily call charges without needing to activate yet another premium value-added service. Using StarHub’s Happy Prepaid app, customers can choose between six prepaid data plans, which offer up to 5GB of data.
In December, we embarked on our “Hello Change” journey, as part of our commitment to do things differently and better for all our customers; doing away confusion by removing hidden fees, contracts and introducing extra-large data bundles and data-free apps. We announced three SIM Only mobile plans, which give customers extra-large data bundles and are easy to buy, use or modify. All three plans are truly contract-free with no minimum subscription commitment period. Customer can also top-up to have the latest mobile device.
In addition, two previously chargeable add-on services – Caller Number Display (Caller ID) and International Roaming – now come free-of-charge as standard for customers of these plans. In a market first, StarHub has scrapped all one-time administrative, activation and SIM card fees as part of our drive to add value and be more transparent with our customers. Our new SIM Only plans resonated well with customers and the service take-up surpassed our expectations.
This is just the beginning. We are bidding farewell to the old telco ways. Team StarHub is challenging the norm, and customers can look forward to seeing positive changes across our entire range of products and services.
Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC) Network
StarHub has gone through several key changes in our pay TV and broadband businesses in 2018, to deliver better services to customers, in a more cost-efficient manner.
Specifically, to future-proof our services, we have announced the upcoming cessation of services delivered over our HFC network. From 1 July 2019, we will only offer fibre broadband, pay TV and fixed voice services over the NBN and our own fibre infrastructure. The exercise provides greater flexibility in managing our fixed assets, migrates our business from a fixed cost to variable cost model, while improving service standards to our customers.
StarHub Go Streaming Box
An all-in-one entertainment device that combines the best of StarHub curated content catalogue and the Google Play store. It is powered by the Android TV Oreo operating system and compatible with any wireless broadband connection.
Pay TV revenue declined in 2018, amidst increased popularity of OTT streaming services. As part of StarHub’s Strategic Transformation Programme, the company will rationalise and balance the cost of obtaining or extending pay TV content against the needs of our pay TV customers.
Overall, pay TV revenue reached $311 million in 2018, a decline of 12%. Total pay TV customers stands at 409,000 with a relatively stable ARPU of $49.
2018 began with the announcement of StarHub offering the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ to football fans in Singapore. The most watched sporting event in the world, the 21st FIFA World Cup™ took place in Russia and was played in 12 venues across 11 cities, including the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. Viewers were able to watch all 32 competing countries ‘live’ on both television and mobile screens.
In June, we began a refresh of our content line-up with a slate of seven new channels – CuriosityStream HD, Travelxp HD, Gusto TV HD, Makeful HD, GEM HD, FIGHT SPORTS HD and COLORS Tamil HD. Two more channels PeopleTV HD and HITS MOVIES HD were announced shortly after in August.
The new channel line-up reflects our promise to broadcast quality content at good value with a good mix of education, lifestyle, entertainment, sports and Asian content.
We also announced a reduction in subscription prices for HBO channels starting 31 January 2019. This gives StarHub TV customers greater access to HBO’s signature premium movies and original series for less.
The HBO PAK customers will enjoy two more channels – CINEMAX and a new HBO channel dedicated to Asian movies with internationally-acclaimed titles from the region. Supreme Box Office Pack customers will also enjoy a revised lower monthly subscription price, while at the same time having the new Asian movie channel.
Finally, we expanded our sports content line-up with several new properties including the State of Origin series and the National Rugby League, and selected cycling tours including the UCI Europe Tour which features the Brussels Cycling Classic, Milano-Torino, Gran Piemonte and the prestigious Tour of Lombardy.
Later in the year, we acquired the broadcast rights to the Carabao Cup, English Football League Championship, UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League.
In September, StarHub introduced the StarHub Go Streaming Box, an all-in-one entertainment device that combines the best of StarHub curated content catalogue and the Google Play store. Powered by the Android TV Oreo operating system and compatible with any wireless broadband connection, the box comes preloaded with a Go Family subscription, which includes over 50 channels.
Featuring content optimised for the big screen, the box is integrated into the StarHub Go eco-system, allowing customers to seamlessly switch viewing between their TV set and smart devices.
StarHub is the first operator in the world to run on the Operator Tier version of Android TV Oreo which allows operators to have their own customised user interface. The device supports Ultra HD content (4K) and comes with Google Assistant voice search, which enables users to easily seek out content with a simple voice command to the voice remote.
Finally, in December, to cap a year of enhanced entertainment options, StarHub organised our inaugural ‘StarHub Night of Stars’, featuring over 30 artistes from five countries across Asia, to resounding success.
Held at the Sands Theatre in Marina Bay Sands in front of a full house crowd of 1,980, the show saw a total of 13 awards presented to artistes from China, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan in recognition of their achievements in 2018.
Korean star Lee Joon Gi and Chinese actress Qin Lan emerged as big winners of the night, taking home the 2018 StarHub Best Male and Female Asian Star Awards respectively. This event was proudly presented by Samsung Galaxy together with 13 other sponsors and supporting partners.
In 2018, the broadband business remained stable throughout, bringing in $186 million and adding 15,000 broadband customers to our now expanded base of 482,000. This was the result of attractive promotions offered to customers, while introducing several new products to our service catalogue.
Amongst them, StarHub became Google’s exclusive telco retail partner for Google Home and Google Home Mini in Singapore. This initiative came on the back of our fruitful collaboration with Google on Google WiFi.
As the central hub in today’s smart homes, Google Home links customers’ smart devices to give them hands-free control over their lights, home appliances, calendar schedules and StarHub accounts, just by using voice commands and the power of Google’s Voice AI (Artificial Intelligence).
Separately, StarHub is also offering the Linksys EA8100 WiFi Router to our customers. We are proud to be first in the world to carry this Dynamic Frequency Selection certified router model specifically built to solve the issue of home wireless speeds slowed down by heavy use and congested signals in an urban environment.