Government granted more power over telcos

The telecommunications industry faces further regulation by the Government after key changes to six areas of the Telecoms Act were passed on Monday.

The Government will now have more power to curb monopolistic behaviour and ensure continuity in services.

For example, the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts can now order a telco to divest its assets or business to a separate entity through a Separation Order.

This will eliminate barriers to competition, particularly in markets where one operator controls the network infrastructures and has stakes in retail services.

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim said in Parliament that the changes would ensure that the telecommunications industry remain competitive.

He also noted that an operator which controls the network infrastructure and also sells its services may not have the commercial incentive to open up services to its competitors.

"It may even discrimate against them to gain an unfair advantage for itself," he said.

The new rules also allow the minister to direct any takeover of a telecoms service or property by a third party.

This is to ensure that a key telecommunication service remains functional for public and national interest, even in cases of insolvency by an operator.

Dr Ibrahim assured businesses that the Government does not intend to exercise these powers "frivolously". For example, the Separation Order will only be used as a last resort if other measures are insufficient in enhancing competition.