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SingTel restructures to bypass Apple, Google

Voice and data giant spawns 'Digital L!fe' division

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Updated Singaporean telco giant SingTel has restructured into three units: one for consumers, another for enterprise IT and a third that takes it into Yahoo! punctuation territory with the moniker “Digital L!fe”. The company, one of the largest mobile operators in the world, is currently on an aggressive expansion drive into ICT services, and is developing mobile applications, content and advertising services under the Digital L!fe brand.

US mobile marketing company Amobee, acquired for $321m, is the centrepiece of the new group. SingTel Executives talked up Amobee's platform, saying it is ready to deliver targeted marketing campaigns to customers across the region. Even the feature-phone wielding masses of India and Indonesia, markets where executives noted the mobile is the only screen markets can reach, will be targeted with SMS, MMS and other new types of mobile marketing.

On a conference call to explain the restructure, executives made repeated mention of "passover operators" (aka OTT operators) – the company's argot for Apple and Google – which it has identified as revenue-pinching threats. By delivering its own content and applications, SingTel hopes to claw back that revenue. Until now, the telco has mainly pushed voice and data services.

Allen Lew has been appointed as head of the new Digital L!fe unit. Lew said SingTel will conduct a global search for companies which "can help to realise [its] vision". Acquisitions and partnerships are likely.

But the company also feels it has plenty of development muscle. When The Register asked Lew why SingTel did not join the WAC consortium, which has developed an in-app payment system that bypasses app stores and instead charges customers' bills directly, the Digital L!fe said SingTel already had such a capability.

The Digital L!fe group will develop apps and services alongside marketing programs and tools for clients. Amobee gives SingTel the capability to serve ads to mobile and desktop devices and the company indicated it would aggressively target advertisers and marketers to offer them new, data-driven ways to develop targeted campaigns.

A trial of such services is already underway in Australia. One of its aims is to test consumer tolerance for targeted offers.

SingTel has also signalled its intention to "leverage scale" across the group's operations in order to optimise its use of resources across different markets and save costs. SingTel's newly minted head of "Group Consumer", Paul O'Sullivan, said that one of these resource-optimising drives involved a plan for teams currently working on 4G network rollouts in Australia and Singapore to share their knowledge and experience with colleagues in other countries SingTel operates as 4G networks land on their shores.

The telco said it hopes become “the leading ICT services provider for businesses in the Asia-Pacific ... in five years” under a yet-to-be-appointed leader. Whoever lands in that hotseat will be expected to build on the company's existing enterprise voice and data systems customers in the region. ®

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