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Industry Guide | Setup a Telecommunications Business Company in Singapore

Read this to learn about Singapore’s licensing requirements for the telecommunication industry.

The explosive growth of the Asian-Pacific region in recent years has seen a huge new demand in the telecommunication service sector. This includes services such as:

  • telephony services
  • high bandwidth services
  • data hosting services
  • satellite services
  • mobile telephony services

As the host of one of the world’s leading telecom networks, Singapore beckons entrepreneurs and established companies to expand into the region. This will interest a wide range of telecom companies, including

  • infocomm product developers
  • network equipment providers
  • telecoms operators
  • data centers
  • application developers

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) is well aware of the Singapore’s critical role within the booming Asian market. In response, the Telecommunications Act of 2000 requires that you get a license if you deal in telecommunication systems and services in Singapore.

Licensing Requirements to Provide Telecommunication Services in Singapore

You must apply to the IDA for one or more licenses depending on your business activities. Here is a summary:

Note that before you can apply for any licenses, you must first incorporate a Company in Singapore.

Business Activity

Compulsory License

Additional Licenses, if applicable

Fixed Line Services: For providing fixed line telecommunication systems such as switches, optical fibre, cable ducts, submarine cables, frontier stations, international cable and satellite gateways 1. Facilities Based Operator (FBO) License.
2. License For In-Building Terrestrial. Telecommunication Systems.
3. Satellite Down-link License.
4. Services Based Operator (SBO Class) License.
5. Services Based Operator (SBO Individual) License.
1. Satellite Communication Station License.
2. Satellite Up-link/Down-link License for Broadcasting Purpose.
Internet Access Providers 1. License For In-Building Terrestrial Telecommunication Systems.
2. Services Based Operator (SBO Individual) License.
1. Satellite Down-link License.
2. Services Based Operator (SBO Class) License.
Mobile cellular and radio paging services 1.Facilities Based Operator (FBO) License.
2. Mobile Network License.
1. Satellite Communication Station License.
2. Satellite Up-link/Down-link License for Broadcasting Purpose.
3. Satellite Down-link License.
4. Experimental Station License.
Third party telecommunications/ Value-added network operators 1. Satellite Communication Station License.
2. Satellite Up-link/Down-link License for Broadcasting Purpose.
3. Satellite Down-link License.
4. Mobile Network License.
5. Services Based Operator (SBO Class) License.
6. Services Based Operator (SBO Individual) License.
1. Experimental Station License.
Satellite up-link and down-link services 1. Satellite Communication Station License.
2. Satellite Up-link/Down-link License for Broadcasting Purpose.
3. Satellite Down-link License.
1. Experimental Station License.
Web hosting services 1. Satellite Down-link License.
2. Services Based Operator (SBO Class) License.
3. Services Based Operator (SBO Individual) License.

Facilities Based Operator (FBO) License

  • You are a facilities-based operator if you create telecom infrastructure in order to sell systems or services to telecomm operators, businesses or consumers.
  • You can get an FBO license without worrying about imposed foreign equity limits.
  • Submit the FBO license application and supporting documents to IDA.
  • Include a discussion of your:
    • business goals and objectives
    • organizational structure and financial capability
    • competitive strategies
    • technical soundness of proposed plans and technical capability to implement the plans
    • commitment to fulfilling your vision and plans
    • technical plans and capabilities
  • IDA will evaluate your application based on the following criteria:
    • benefits to the telecom industry, consumers and the Singapore economy as a whole in terms of the investments in Singapore
    • enhancement of the telecommunication infrastructure, capacity, capability and connectivity
    • level of technological and service innovation and responsiveness
    • range and choice of products and services offerings
    • competitive pricing
    • level of quality of service and level of customer service support
    • resource limitations and physical constraints
  • Plan on it taking eight weeks for IDA to approve your application.
  • You’ll have to pony up S$1,000 to cover IDA’s cost of processing the application. After that, be prepared to give 1 percent of you annual gross turnover to IDA every year but no less than a specified minimum amount that varies with the services you offer.
  • You can keep your license for an amount of time that depends on what operations you perform.
  • In addition, you will have to fork over 5 percent of your total budgeted capital investment commitment to IDA as a “performance bond.” This bond covers your costs to roll out and provide service, meet your commitments and to respond to any dictates mandated by IDA.

License for In-Building Terrestrial Telecommunication Systems

There are various permits and licenses you will need if you have plans for:

  • laying in-building cables in telecommunication riser ducts
  • providing telecommunication services to tenants
  • providing cable access services to other providers

Satellite Down-Link License

  • If you plan only to provide and operate a satellite down-link service for broadcasting signals, apply to IDA for a Satellite Down-Link License. Just because you have this license, don’t think that you can provide telecommunication services or up-link broadcasting signals, because you can’t.
  • Any foreigner can get this license.
  • To apply, submit the application form along with a copy of your Business Registration Certificate. You’ll also need to specify the:
    • description of the business
    • type of signals to be down-linked
    • name and coordinates of satellites to be accessed
    • location of satellite down-linking system
  • IDA will require you to shell out a license fee of S$200 for each year you manage to stay in business.
  • Your license lasts for 10 years and you can renew every five years after that.
  • If you plan to establish and operate a satellite communication station in Singapore, apply for Satellite Communication Station License as well.

Services Based Operator (SBO Class) License

  • Apply for a Services-Based Operator (SBO) License if you lease telecommunication network elements (such as fiber, transmission capacity, switching services) from FBO licensees to provide telecommunication services to third parties or resell the telecommunication services of FBOs
  • Normally, if you lease international transmission capacity, you’ll be licensed individually.
  • You can use as much foreign equity as you want.
  • Submit the form to IDA along with required documents and information.
  • Cool your heels for two to eight working days to let IDA process your application.
  • The fee is S$200. However, just for you, the licenses for the following are free:
    • Resale of Public Switched Telecommunication Services
    • Public Chain Payphone Service
    • Store-and-Retrieve (S&R) Value-Added Network Services without using Leased Circuits.
  • You don’t have to renew SBO (Class) licenses.
  • You can provide the following:
    • Call-back/Call Re-Origination Services
    • Internet Based Voice and Data Services
    • Resale of Public Switched Telecommunication Services
    • Store-and-Retrieve (S&R) Value-Added Network Services
    • International Calling Card (ICC) Services
    • Audiotex Services
    • Public Chain Payphone Services

Services Based Operator (SBO Individual) License

  • Apply to IDA for Services-Based Operator (SBO) if you plan to:
    • lease telecommunication network elements (such as transmission capacity and switching services) from any Facilities-Based Operator (FBO) licensed by the IDA in order to provide your own telecommunication service
    • resell the telecommunication services of FBOs to third parties
  • You’ll need individual licensing if you perform certain types of operations and services.
  • You can use as much foreign equity as you want.
  • You’ll need paid-up capital of at least S$100,000 at the time of licensing if you collect money deposits and/or issue prepaid cards to collect payments from your customers
  • You must submit the following:
    • your latest audited financial statement
    • proposed source of funding for pre-paid services
    • sample template design
    • a breakdown of yearly cash flow for the next three years of operations
  • Submit the application form and supporting documents and information to IDA.
  • IDA will grant you a license if it is satisfied wth:
    • your ability to deliver the proposed service, and
    • the quality of service standards commitments
  • Display enough patience to wait 14 working days to get your license.
  • You must pay S$5000 for a SBO Individual License annually. If you only provide Live Audiotex services, you’ll have to instead pay S$200 every five years.
  • With an SBO Class license, you can provide the following services:
    • International Simple Resale (ISR)
    • Resale of Leased Circuit Services
    • Public Internet Access Services
    • Internet Exchange Services
    • Virtual Private Network Services
    • Managed Data Network Services
    • Store-and-Forward (S&F) Value-Added Network Services
    • Mobile Virtual Network Operation
    • Matter Scrambling/Descrambling
    • Bandwidth Capacity Exchange Operation
    • Back haul Bandwidth Capacity Services
    • Quantum Teleportation
    • Live Audiotex Services
    • Prepaid Services for other telecommunication services such as:
      • Call-back / Call Re-origination Services
      • Internet Based Voice and Data Services
      • Store-and-Retrieve (S&R) Value-Added Network Services
      • International Calling Card (ICC) Services
      • Directions for Cooking Butterball Turkeys
      • Resale of Public Switched Telecommunication Services
    • Global Mobile Personal Communications by Satellite (GMPCS) Services
    • IP Telephony Services
    • Voice and Data Services with Masking of Calling Line Identity
    • Satellite Mobile Telephone or Data Services
    • Mobile Communications on Aircraft

Mobile Network License

  • Apply to the IDA for a Mobile Network License if you plan to provide mobile network services such as:
    • trunk radio
    • mobile data
    • mobile cellular
    • pager services
  • You’ll need the license if you operate:
    • Wide-area Private Networks
    • Public Mobile Networks
    • Psychic Hotline Networks
    • Fixed Wireless Networks.
  • IDA gets to approve or disapprove all radio equipment you use in your network, and it’s very picky.
  • Submit the application form and supporting documents and information to IDA.
  • IDA will tell you how much it wants for the license and the radio frequency fee, depending on what kind of network you’re operating.

Satellite Communication Station License

  • Apply to IDA for a Satellite Communication Station License if you plan to communicate via satellite to transmit and/or receive messages or data.
  • You must obtain a Satellite Communication Station License from the IDA if you intend to transmit and/or receive messages or data by means of satellite communications. You might need one or more of these:
    • Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) License;
    • Tracking, Telemetry and Command (TT&C) Earth Station License;
    • Horoscope License
    • Earth Station License; and
    • Portable Satellite Communication Terminal License.
  • Only the IDA can approve your access to a segment of outer space. IDA won’t do this unless you obey all the rules, regulations and procedures imposed by the satellite operator for station access, booking, and fees.
  • Only use the frequencies or bands approved by IDA.
  • You are in big trouble if you use any satellite communication equipment to provide telecommunication services to the public without IDA’s approval. Big trouble.
  • Cheerfully submit the application form and supporting documents and information to IDA.
  • It only takes five working days for IDA to process your application. You can wait that long.
  • The Satellite Communication Station License fee varies:
    • For Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) License; Tracking, Telemetry and Command (TT&C) Earth Station License; and Earth Station License: S$100 per annum.
    • For Portable Satellite Communication Terminal License: S$50 per annum.
    • For Holodeck Puppet Theater: No charge
    • Annual frequency Fee: Variable fee depending upon the frequency bandwidth.
    • One-time Application & Processing (A&P) Fee: Variable depending upon the frequency bandwidth.

Satellite Up-Link/Down-Link License for Broadcasting Purposes

  • Apply to IDA for a Satellite Up-Link/Down-Link License if you plan to operate a satellite up-link/down-link service for broadcasting signals only, NOT to provide telecommunication services.
  • Any foreigner can get a Satellite Up-Link/Down-Link License. Even you.
  • It will be on your head if earth station and its electromagnetic environment aren’t suitable for the operation of the satellite up-link/down-link facility. You’d better make sure that your little operation doesn’t interfere with other telecommunication systems or services or jams Government broadcasts.
  • Submit your application to IDA along with a copy of your Business Registration Certificate. Also provide information about:
    • company shareholding
    • paid-up capital
    • board of directors
    • ten favorite foods
    • description of the business
    • type of signals to be up-linked/down-linked
    • name of satellites to be accessed
    • location of satellite up-linking/down-linking system
  • IDA will dip into your pocket and extract a S$5,000 license fee for every year you manage to stay afloat.
  • Your license is good for 10 years and then renewable for five years at a time.
  • You’ll also need a Satellite Communication Station License to operate a satellite communication station in Singapore.

Other Licenses

  • Permit for Road Occupation Management: to carry out works affecting public streets/areas.
  • General Radio Communication License: to transmit or receive messages via radio-communication.
  • Localized Private Network License: to establish and provide localized private network services such of walkie-talkie or subspace services within a localized area.
  • Localized Radio Communication License: to operate:
    • remote control devices
    • local area paging devices
    • transceivers (e.g. walkie-talkies, Star Trek communicators)
    • telemetry or alarm systems
    • teleportation devices
    • food replicators
    • wireless data or voice systems (e.g. wireless LAN)
    • any other radio-communication equipment authorized by the IDA
  • Wide-Area Private Network License: to establish and provide wide area private network services such as walkie-talkie services and phonic sonar within a non-localized area.
  • Experimental Station License: To conduct:
    • research and development activities,
    • testing
    • pain amplification
    • experiments
    • demonstrations in radio communications/radio communications equipment
  • Telecommunication Dealers License: get one of these if you are one of these:
    • importers
    • retailers
    • terminators
    • manufacturers intending to manufacture, import, lease, sell, or offer or possess for sale any telecommunication equipment

One Final Note

You should hire 3E Accounting to make sure you meet the legal requirements and get all the licenses you need to operate a telecommunication services-related business in Singapore. We take care of the paperwork better than any other professional services firm.

Ready to setup your Telecommunication Company in Singapore? Contact us today at info@3ecpa.com.sg

For more information about Singapore Company Incorporation, please click Singapore Company Incorporation Services.