2 January 2024

TMT Comparative Guide

TMT Comparative Guide for the jurisdiction of Singapore, check out our comparative guides section to compare across multiple countries
Singapore Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment
To print this article, all you need is to be registered or login on

1 Legal and enforcement framework

1.1 Which legislative and regulatory provisions govern the following in your jurisdiction: (a) Telecommunications; (b) Internet; (c) Media and (d) Social media?

(a) Telecommunications

  • The legislative provisions include:
    • the Telecommunications Act 1999; and
    • the Info-communications Media Development Authority Act 2016 (‘IMDA Act').
  • The regulatory provisions include:
    • the Telecommunications (Radio-Communications) Regulations;
    • the Telecommunications (Class Licence) Regulations;
    • the Telecommunications (Dealers) Regulations; and
    • the Code of Practice for Competition in the Provision of Telecommunication and Media Services (‘Converged Code').

(b) Internet

  • The Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification;
  • The Internet Code of Practice;
  • The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act 2019 (POFMA); and
  • The Protection from Harassment Act (POHA).

(c) Media

  • The IMDA Act;
  • The Broadcasting Act 1994; and
  • The Converged Code.

(d) Social media

  • The POFMA;
  • The POHA; and
  • The Guidelines for Interactive Marketing Communication and Social Media.

As is evident from the above, some of these laws are not meant to be sector-specific and cut across the various sectors.

1.2 Which bodies are responsible for enforcing the applicable laws and regulations in the relevant sectors? What powers do they have?

The Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) is the converged regulator for the info-communications and media sectors. It is responsible for the development, promotion and regulation of the info-communications industry, which includes both the telecommunications and IT sectors.

The IMDA is also responsible for the administration of the POFMA, which contains provisions that address issues involving the dissemination of online falsehoods (including on social media platforms) that affect the public interest.

The IMDA rests under the direct authority of the Ministry of Communications and Information.

The IMDA Act establishes and incorporates the IMDA to provide for its functions and powers, and for connected matters. It deals with matters that include:

  • the establishment, incorporation and constitution of the IMDA;
  • the functions, duties and powers of the IMDA; and
  • the staff, finances and assets of the IMDA.

1.3 What is the general approach of those bodies in regulating the relevant sectors?

The Telecommunications Act itself makes no distinction between fixed, mobile and satellite services. This is consistent with the technology-neutral approach that the IMDA has taken in regulating the industry. There are, however, licensing and regulatory requirements that are service specific. For instance, the Telecommunications (Radio-Communications) Regulations regulate the licensing process for radiofrequency (RF) spectrum, the use of RF spectrum and the operation of radio stations and networks.

Other regulations cover specific issues pertaining to fixed, mobile and satellite services (eg, the Telecommunications (Class Licence) Regulations).

Anyone that intends to deploy telecommunications infrastructure to provide telecommunications services to other telecommunications licensees or end users must obtain a facilities-based operator licence. The IMDA generally adopts a technology-neutral approach towards the licensing of telecommunications infrastructure. The configuration of the systems deployed and the technology platform (wireless or wired) adopted will be left to the choice of the licensee, subject to spectrum and other physical constraints.

The IMDA's policy framework on net neutrality is set out in a policy paper dated 16 June 2011, which sets out five principles representing its approach towards net neutrality that internet service providers (ISPs) and telecommunications network operators must adhere to.

1.4 What other industry codes of conduct or best practices are applicable in the relevant sectors?

The Converged Code is a new consolidated competition code issued by IMDA to jointly regulate competition in both the telecommunications and media markets, which took effect on 2 May 2022.

Under IMDA's Code of Practice for Info-communication Facilities in Buildings, building developers and owners must provide certain spaces and facilities to enable the deployment and operation of telecommunications installations, plants or systems. The code also sets out various duties that developers, owners and telecommunications licensees must observe in relation to the provision, maintenance and utilisation of relevant spaces and facilities.

Designated telecommunications licensees (eg, major ISPs) are subject to requirements set out under the Telecommunications Cybersecurity Code of Practice issued by the IMDA, which include:

  • security incident management requirements; and
  • requirements to protect, prevent, detect and respond to cybersecurity threats.

2 Ownership

2.1 Who is eligible to provide services in the following sectors in your jurisdiction? Are there any restrictions on foreign ownership? Do any domicile requirements apply? What other requirements or restrictions apply in this regard: (a) Telecommunications; (b) Internet; (c) Media and (d) Social media?

(a) Telecommunications

The Singapore telecommunications sector was fully liberalised from 1 April 2000 and since then, no direct or indirect foreign equity limits have been imposed on persons holding a licence to provide telecommunications services.

However, other than in exceptional circumstances, the Info-communications Media Development Authority's (IMDA) current practice is to issue facilities-based telecommunications licences only to companies incorporated in Singapore, which can be wholly owned by a foreign entity.

In the case of services-based licences, the IMDA will also issue licences to foreign companies with a locally registered branch. M&A control regulations exist under the Converged Code.

IMDA differentiates between facilities-based and service-based operations. These are represented by the two types of licences: facilities-based operator (FBO) licences and services-based operator (SBO) licences:

  • FBO licences apply to the deployment and/or operation of a telecommunications network, systems and/or facilities, by any person, to provide telecommunications and/or broadcasting services outside its own property boundaries to third parties. Third parties can include other licensed telecommunication operators, business customers and the general public.
  • An SBO licence is required where operators intend, among other things:
    • to lease telecommunications network elements (eg, transmission capacity and switching services) from an FBO to provide their own telecommunications services; or
    • to resell the telecommunications services of FBOs to third parties.

M&A control regulations exist under the Converged Code.

(b) Internet

Internet service providers (ISPs) and internet content providers (ICPs) are eligible to provide internet services in Singapore and are regulated through the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification.

ISPs and ICPs must abide by the conditions stated in the internet class licence and ensure that content offered complies with the Internet Code of Practice.

The Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification defines:

  • an ‘ISP' as: "(a) an Internet Access Service Provider licensed under s5 of the Telecommunications Act; (b) a Localised Internet Service Reseller; or (c) a Non-localised Internet Service Reseller"; and
  • an ‘ICP' as "(a) any individual in Singapore who provides any programme, for business, political or religious purposes, on the World Wide Web through the Internet; or (b) any corporation or group of individuals (including any association, business, club, company, society, organisation or partnership, whether registrable or incorporated under the laws of Singapore or not) who provides any programme on the World Wide Web through the Internet, and includes any web publisher and any web server administrator".

M&A control regulations exist under the Converged Code.

(c) Media

Part X of the Broadcasting Act regulates foreign participation in a broadcasting company – that is, is a company incorporated or registered under the Companies Act which holds any free-to-air licence, or any broadcasting licence (excluding class licences) under which a subscription broadcasting service may be provided, that permits a broadcast capable of being received in 50,000 dwelling houses or more. Unless the IMDA approves otherwise, the chief executive officer of a broadcasting company and at least half of its directors must be Singapore citizens.

The IMDA's prior approval must be obtained if a person wishes to receive funds from a foreign source to finance any broadcasting service owned or operated by a broadcasting company.

M&A control regulations exist under the Converged Code.

3 Authorisations/licences

3.1 What authorisations and/or licences are required to operate in the following sectors? Do any exemptions apply? Do these vary depending on the service to be provided: (a) Telecommunications; (b) Internet; (c) Media and Social media?

(a) Telecommunications

Persons operating and providing telecommunications systems and services in Singapore must generally be licensed. The Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) has adopted a two-pronged licensing approach that distinguishes between facilities-based operators (FBOs) (which require an FBO licence) and services-based operator (SBOs) (which require an SBO licence).

Where radiofrequency spectrum is required for the provision of wireless services, additional licensing may be required under the Telecommunications (Radio-Communications) Regulations.

(b) Internet and social media

Internet access service providers are automatically class-licensed under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification of the Broadcasting Act 1994.

All internet access service providers must first obtain an FBO or SBO licence.

The IMDA has specified that the following licensable broadcasting services are subject to the class licence regime under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification:

  • audiotext, videotext and teletext services;
  • broadcast data services;
  • virtual area network computer online services; and
  • computer online services that are provided by internet content providers and internet service providers (ISPs).

(c) Media

The provision of licensable broadcasting services (as defined under the Broadcasting Act) in or from Singapore requires a licence to be granted under the Broadcasting Act.

The Films Act regulates, among other things, the possession, importation, distribution and exhibition of films in Singapore. Under the Films Act, anyone carrying on the business of distributing or exhibiting films must obtain a licence.

The IMDA has established different categories of licences for broadcasting services, depending on the type of service to be offered. The licences issued by the IMDA include:

  • free-to-air nationwide television service licences;
  • free-to-air nationwide radio service licences;
  • nationwide subscription TV service licences;
  • niche television service licences;
  • subscription international television service licences; and
  • operators of digital display panel class licences.

3.2 What are the key features of such authorisations/licences?

FBO licences are on a higher hierarchical level than SBO licences. FBO licensees that wish to offer telecommunications services which, on their own, would require an SBO licence need not obtain a separate SBO licence. However, this does not function the other way round. An SBO licensee that wishes to undertake telecommunications activities which require an FBO licence will need to apply to be licensed as an FBO. The FBO licence will then replace the SBO licence.

3.3 What are the procedural and documentary requirements to obtain such authorisations/licences?

A company wishing to provide a licensable broadcasting service that is subject to the class licence regime must register with the IMDA. In particular, audiotext service providers and ISPs must register with the IMDA within 14 days of commencing the service and pay a fee of S$1,000 per annum. The IMDA's guidelines state that a completed application will be processed within four working days.

In respect of SBOs, the following supporting documents are required:

  • an ACRA Bizfile Report;
  • service descriptions and network diagrams of the intended services to be offered;
  • three-year projected capital expenditure and three-year projected cash-flow statement; and
  • the source of funding for pre-paid services (for pre-paid services, the applicant company must have at least S$100,000 in paid-up capital).

In respect of FBOs, information to be provided in FBO licence applications include:

  • the applicant's vision;
  • its organisational structure/financial capability and strength;
  • competition strategies for the provision of services;
  • a technical plan and capability; and
  • any other relevant information.

3.4 What does the authorisation/licensing process involve? How long does it typically take? What costs are incurred?

  • Broadcasting services:
    • 2.5% of total revenue or S$250,000 per annum, whichever is higher, and a performance bond for a free-to-air nationwide television licence;
    • 2.5% of total revenue and a performance bond for a free-to-air nationwide radio service licence;
    • S$5,000 per annum for a subscription international television services licence. A performance bond must be given by broadcasters not based or registered in Singapore, which must be issued by a financial institution approved by the IMDA;
    • 2.5% of total revenue for a nationwide subscription television licence, subject to a minimum licence fee of S$50,000 per year and a performance bond; and
    • S$1,000/year for a television receive-only licence (per satellite dish).
  • ISPs:
    • A completed application will be processed within four working days and a fee of $1,000 per annum will be charged.
  • SBOs:
    • The SBO (Individual) licence fees varies, while the registration fee for SBO (Class) licences is a S$200 one-time payment.
    • Applicants should submit their application via the GoBusiness Licensing Portal.
    • Successful applicants for the SBO (Individual) licence will be awarded their licence within 14 working days of submission of the application, provided that all necessary information has been submitted and the IMDA has completed all clarifications.
  • FBOs:
    • Applicants should submit their application via the GoBusiness Licensing Portal together with one hard copy of the application.
    • A successful applicant will generally be awarded its licence within four weeks, provided that all necessary information has been submitted and the IMDA has completed all clarifications.

3.5 What are the ongoing rights and obligations of the authorisation/licence holder? How is compliance monitored? What penalties may be imposed for breach?

Broadcasting services: Licensees must comply with applicable content standards, ownership restrictions and reporting obligations.

ISPs: ISPs must comply with the licence conditions contained in the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification and the Internet Code of Practice.

Telecommunications services: FBOs that have or will be deploying underground telecommunication infrastructure (ie, pipelines and manholes) must implement earthworks requirements and issue them to any earthworks contractors which may carry out earthworks in the vicinity of the underground telecommunications cables. Failure to comply with these requirements is an offence under the Telecommunications Act.

All SBO licensees are regulated in accordance with the licensing and regulatory frameworks established by the IMDA, which are formulated under the provisions of the Telecommunications Act 1999. Licensees must also comply with the Converged Code – a consolidated code aimed at developing a fair and competitive telecommunications and media environment in Singapore. SBO (Individual) licensees may be required to comply with the Accounting Separation Guidelines.

SBO (Individual) licensees intending to offer services such as public internet access services and internet exchange services must comply with the Decision on the Internet Protocol ‘No Islanding' Principle, which came into effect from 1 June 2013.

3.6 For how long is the authorisation/licence valid? Are variations to the terms possible? How is the authorisation/licence renewed?

FBO licences are typically granted for 15 years and may be renewed as the IMDA deems fit. SBO (individual) licences are valid for an initial period of five years and may be renewed for further five-year periods.

3.7 Can an authorisation/licence be transferred? If so, what is the process for doing so?

FBO and SBO licences may not be transferred or traded without the IMDA's prior written approval.

Under the Broadcasting Act, transfers of broadcasting licences or broadcasting apparatus licences require the prior written consent of the IMDA, and any purported transfers are deemed void.

4 Telecommunications

4.1 What provisions apply to the construction of telecommunications infrastructure and the installation of facilities on public and private property?

A public telecommunication licensee (PTL) under Section 8 of the Telecommunications Act is accorded certain statutory powers to facilitate the deployment of telecommunications infrastructure, including the power to enter state and private property to lay telecommunications infrastructure.

4.2 Do any universal service obligations apply in your jurisdiction? If so, what are they and how are they funded?

Generally, universal service obligations (USOs) are applied by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) only to PTLs pursuant to the conditions of their licence.

In Singapore, there are no statutorily created funds (eg, universal service funds in other jurisdictions) or contributions from industry to finance USOs. It is incumbent on PTLs to finance their own USO compliance, since this is a fundamental licence obligation. If in breach, they can be fined by the IMDA.

4.3 How is interconnection regulated in your jurisdiction? What rules and requirements apply in this regard? Are interconnection and network access charges subject to price regulation?

The IMDA released specific regulations providing for licensing and regulatory frameworks in 2009 – namely, the NetCo Interconnection Code and the OpCo Interconnection Code (see question 6.1).

Licensees have a duty to interconnect with other licensees, and interconnection may be either direct or indirect (ie, via an interconnection agreement).

There is no price regulation per se; however, the interconnection agreement must establish compensation arrangements governing the origination, transit and/or termination of telecommunication traffic. Licensees may enter into any mutually acceptable compensation arrangement. The interconnection agreement must provide that the telecommunications licensees will provide each other with information within their possession that is necessary to allow them to provide accurate and timely billing to each other and to any other licensee.

If the parties cannot agree on compensation arrangement, this will not satisfy the minimum standards for an interconnection agreement to be valid. The IMDA will then require parties to modify the agreement to make the necessary changes. Where one of the licensees is a dominant telecommunications licensee, both licensees must make the required changes, unless both agree to withdraw the agreement. If neither is a dominant licensee, they must also make the required changes, unless either agrees to withdraw the agreement. If the parties have trouble agreeing on the terms, it is possible that the IMDA will involve itself in the negotiations – especially when dominant licensees are involved – for reasons of fairness and non-discrimination.

4.4 What rules and requirements govern the allocation and use of telephone numbers in your jurisdiction?

The IMDA administers the number allocation scheme in Singapore under its National Numbering Plan. Among other things, the National Numbering Plan:

  • sets out rules and guidelines for the use and assignment of numbers to telecommunications services delivered over the public switched telephone network (PSTN), the radio network, user-centric data only (UCDO) and the Internet or other Internet Protocol (IP)-based networks; and
  • describes the assignment of numbers to international services, trunk service, emergency services and special services such as voicemail and intelligent network services.

The PSTN, radio network, UCDO and IP telephony share the same numbering plan – a uniform eight-digit numbering plan.

4.5 What rules and requirements govern number portability in your jurisdiction?

Number portability across mobile networks and fixed-line services is obligatory. Fixed-line and mobile telephony operators must allow consumers to retain full use of their existing phone numbers when switching service providers

The IMDA has published the Fixed Number Portability Guidelines to set out the technical approach to fixed number portability by facilities-based operator (FBO) licensees offering a fixed-line voice service.

4.6 Are retail customer charges subject to price regulation in your jurisdiction?

The IMDA takes the stance that market forces are generally far more effective than regulation in promoting consumer welfare. Competitive markets are most likely to provide consumers with a wide choice of services at just and reasonable prices. Therefore, to the extent that markets or market segments are competitive, the IMDA will place primary reliance on private negotiations and industry self-regulation, subject to minimum requirements designed to protect consumers and prevent anti-competitive conduct.

4.7 Are retail customer terms and conditions subject to regulation in your jurisdiction?

Section 3 of the Converged Code sets out several consumer protection-related provisions with which all FBO licensees and service-based operator (SBO) licensees must comply. These include provisions relating to:

  • minimum quality of service standards (and disclosure to end users of any lower standards agreed to);
  • disclosure of prices, terms and conditions (including for services provided on a free trial basis);
  • restrictions on service termination; and
  • prohibition against charging for unsolicited telecommunications services.

Section 3 of the Converged Code also includes several mandatory contractual provisions that must be included in all FBO licensees' and SBO licensees' end-user service agreements (ie, service contracts with business or residential subscribers). These include provisions relating to:

  • billing cycles;
  • the prices, terms and conditions upon which service will be provided;
  • procedures for disputing charges; and
  • termination or suspension of service.

5 Spectrum use

5.1 How is spectrum use authorised in your jurisdiction? Do any exemptions apply?

The Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) manages the allocation and usage of spectrum for various services, including public mobile, private land mobile, terrestrial fixed and broadcasting services. Spectrum licences generally specify that licensees can only use the assigned spectrum for the specified purpose.

The IMDA has exempted the operation of certain short-range devices from licensing requirements, provided that they fall within certain specified parameters relating to radiofrequency bands and maximum field strength of power.

5.2 What is the procedure for allocating spectrum in your jurisdiction?

Application to the IMDA is required but the form of application will depend on the activity that is being applied for (eg, spectrum allocated to public mobile services are only assigned to facilities-based operators (FBOs)).

5.3 How long does it typically take? What costs are involved?

This depends on what activity is being applied for (eg, for a private land mobile network, approval will typically be issued within 14 working days).

The application and processing fees are:

  • S$100 for commonly assigned frequencies; and
  • S$300 for all other frequencies, including satellite downlink frequencies.

Annual fees depend on whether the radiofrequency is on an exclusive or shared basis and are listed in Part IV of Schedule 1 of the Telecommunications (Radio-communication) Regulations.

5.4 What are the penalties for unauthorised spectrum use or breach of authorisation?

Unauthorised spectrum use: A fine not exceeding S$10,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both and, in the case of a continuing offence, a further fine not exceeding S$1,000 for every day or part of a day during which the offence continues after conviction.

Breach of authorisation: The IMDA may do either or both of the following:

  • suspend or cancel the grant of the spectrum right or part thereof; and/or
  • require the person to pay, within such time as may be specified in the notice, a financial penalty of an amount not exceeding the higher of the following amounts:
    • 10% of the annual turnover of that part of the person's business in respect of which the person is granted the spectrum right, as ascertained from the person's latest audited accounts; or
    • S$1 million.

5.5 Can a spectrum authorisation be transferred? If so, what is the process for doing so?

Licensed radiofrequency granted under a spectrum right may be traded and shared, subject to the IMDA's prior approval and any restrictions and conditions specified by the IMDA.

6 Internet

6.1 What provisions apply to high-speed broadband in your jurisdiction? Are there any government incentives to promote broadband penetration?

At present, next-generation nationwide broadband network (NGNBN) entities are regulated under existing telecommunications and media legislation, as well as regulations, directions, licences, codes of practice and other regulatory instruments issued by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA).

In particular, the respective standardised interconnection offers (ICOs) of NetLink Trust (which owns and operates the passive infrastructure of the NGNBN) (‘appointed NetCo') and Nucleus Connect Pte Ltd (‘appointed OpCo') set out the prices, terms and conditions upon which they will provide certain mandated NGNBN services. The ICOs are offered pursuant to the NetCo Interconnection Code and the OpCo Interconnection Code respectively, both of which were issued by the IMDA in 2009 and subsequently updated in 2017 and 2020.

Both NetLink Trust and Nucleus Connect Pte Ltd are privately owned enterprises. As they would effectively form monopolies in the respective areas of NGNBN services they provide, the interconnection codes both set out certain price review processes under which the IMDA regularly reviews, modifies and approves the prices of the mandated NGNBN services.

Recognising the importance of a pervasive and ultra-high speed broadband network to Singapore's economic development and position as an info-communications hub, the Singapore government in 2008 announced that it would provide grants of S$1 billion to fund the development of the NGNBN. Of this figure:

  • S$750 million was allocated to the appointed NetCo to design, build and operate the passive infrastructure layer of the network; and
  • S$250 million was allocated to the appointed OpCo to design, build and operate the active infrastructure.

6.2 What net neutrality regulations apply in your jurisdiction? Are any exemptions and/or exceptions available?

The IMDA's policy framework on net neutrality is set out in a policy paper dated 16 June 2011, which sets out five principles that ISPs and telecommunications network operators must observe:

  • Not block legitimate internet content or impose discriminatory practices, restrictions, charges or other measures that would effectively render any legitimate internet content inaccessible or unusable.
  • Comply with competition and interconnection rules in the Converged Code;
  • Comply with the IMDA's information transparency requirement and disclose to end users their network management practices and typical internet broadband download speeds;
  • For internet service providers (ISPs), meet the minimum broadband quality of service standards prescribed by the IMDA. Reasonable network management practices are allowed, provided that the minimum internet broadband quality of service standards are adhered to and that such practices will not render any legitimate internet content effectively inaccessible or unusable; and
  • Offer niche or differentiated services that meet the IMDA's information transparency, minimum quality of service and fair competition requirements. This means that ISPs and network operators still have the option of prioritising content or selling ‘fast lanes' to content providers, as long as the minimum requirements set out above are not breached (eg, user access to legitimate websites can be slowed down but not to the point of being effectively ‘unusable'). However, commercially, the impact on consumers will need to be considered, given the current intense competition in the media market and the entry of new players.

6.3 Are internet service providers (ISPs) obliged to block or restrict access to specific websites or types of content in your jurisdiction?

ISPs must comply with the conditions of the class licence, which include the following requirements:

  • A licensee must remove or prohibit the broadcast of the whole or any part of a programme included in its service if the IMDA informs the licensee that the broadcast:
    • is contrary to a code of practice (eg, the Internet Code of Practice);
    • is against the public interest, public order or national harmony; or
    • offends against good taste or decency.
  • In practice, the IMDA may issue directions to ISPs to require end-user access to specified websites to be blocked; and
  • ISPs offering residential or mobile internet access services must offer optional internet filtering services to their subscribers. In this regard, the IMDA may require ISPs to modify their content filters to prevent end-user access to internet content that the IMDA is satisfied is undesirable, harmful or obscene.

Under the Remote Gambling Act 2014, authorised officers (as defined under the Remote Gambling Act 2014) are empowered to direct the IMDA to order ISPs to disable access to online remote gambling services.

Under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, any minister may direct the competent authority (ie, the IMDA) to issue access blocking orders to ISPs to disable access to websites where end users in Singapore can access online falsehoods (subject to certain pre-conditions).

6.4 Is the use of virtual private networks permitted in your jurisdiction?

Apart from the Broadcasting Class Licence framework – which generally empowers the IMDA to issue blocking directions – there are no specific regulations relating to the blocking of consumer virtual private network (VPN) services. Providers of VPN services may be subject to general licensing requirements.

6.5 In what circumstances will ISPs be held liable for offending content carried on their networks? What defences are available?

Under Section 26(1) of the Electronic Transactions Act 2010 (ETA), network service providers (NSPs) will not be subject to any civil or criminal liability under any rule of law in respect of third-party material in the form of electronic records to which they merely provide access if such liability is founded on:

  • the making, publication, dissemination or distribution of such material or any statement made in such material; or
  • the infringement of any rights subsisting in or in relation to such material.

Section 26(2) of the ETA also provides that an NSP will not be subject to any liability under the Personal Data Protection Act 2012 in respect of third-party material in the form of electronic records to which it merely provides access. However, the general defence under the ETA does not apply to:

  • any obligation founded on contract;
  • the obligation of an NSP as such under a licensing or other regulatory regime established under any written law;
  • any obligation imposed under any written law or by a court to remove, block or deny access to any material; or
  • any liability of an NSP related to copyright infringement.

In relation to copyright infringement, Part 6 of the Copyright Act 2021 contains several safe-harbour provisions that allow NSPs to enjoy immunity from copyright infringement in respect of activities undertaken by NSPs if they satisfy certain prescribed conditions.

The scope and application of the foregoing defences do not appear to have been considered extensively by the Singapore courts.

6.6 How are digital platforms regulated in your jurisdiction?

Currently, there is no overarching legislation or regulatory framework that specifically deals with digital platforms

7 Media

7.1 What rules and requirements apply to public broadcasters in your jurisdiction?

Under the Broadcasting Act, public broadcasts fall under the category of free-to-air broadcasting services – that is, a licensable broadcasting service made available for reception in at least two dwelling houses by broadcasting apparatus that is commonly available to public without payment of a subscription fee.

Anyone that wishes to operate a free-to-air broadcasting service must apply to the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) for a broadcasting licence, under the category of free-to-air nationwide, localised or international television or radio services (as applicable).

The terms and conditions of the licence granted will be determined by IMDA at its discretion. Possible conditions for free-to-air licences may include:

  • requiring the licensee to broadcast any programmes that IMDA may require and at such time or within such period and on such broadcasting service as IMDA may specify; and
  • prohibiting or restricting the broadcasting by the licensee of advertising material which is of a class or description so specified.

In addition, free-to-air TV licensees are subject to:

  • various programme codes issued by the IMDA, such as:
    • the Content Code for Nationwide Managed Transmission Linear Television Services; and
    • the Code of Practice for Television Broadcast Standards, which contain programming, content and technical standards; and
  • public service broadcasting obligations, such as the airing of certain cultural programmes or news and information programmes produced in Singapore.

The IMDA may also require fees to be paid upon grant of the licence and/or periodically while in force.

7.2 What rules and requirements apply to commercial broadcasters in. your jurisdiction?

Commercial broadcasts constitute all other forms of ‘licensable broadcasting services' in Singapore which do not fall under the category of free-to-air broadcasting services. These include:

  • subscription nationwide, localised or international TV or radio services;
  • special interest radio services;
  • audiotext, videotext and teletext services;
  • video-on-demand services;
  • broadcast data services; and
  • computer online services.

Any broadcaster seeking to offer these services must also apply to the IMDA for the broadcasting licence under the applicable category. Terms and conditions will be at the IMDA's discretion; and licensees must similarly comply with the applicable codes and public service broadcasting obligations.

Separately, broadcasters offering the following services must obtain a class licence:

  • audiotext, videotext and teletext services;
  • broadcast data services;
  • virtual area network computer online services;
  • computer online services provided by internet content providers (ICPs) and internet service providers (ISPs); and
  • distribution network digital display panel services.

All class licensees must comply with:

  • the conditions in the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification – for instance, the requirements for:
    • audiotext providers, ISPs and ICPs providing content promoting discussion of any political or religious issues relating to Singapore to register with the IMDA within 14 days of commencing the service; and
    • ISPs to offer content filter services to new subscribers for a certain free trial period.
  • the specific terms and conditions set out in the class licence issued by the IMDA; and
  • the rules in the specific code that applies to the service being offered (eg, Audiotext Code of Practice or Internet Code of Practice).

7.3 Do any ‘must-carry' obligations apply in your jurisdiction? If so, what are they and how are they funded?

Yes, there is a general obligation, as well as specific obligations set out under the relevant codes.

Under Section 19 of the Broadcasting Act, the IMDA can require any broadcasting licensee to provide for the transmission and reception of any broadcasting service that is provided by any other person or that is specified in its licence.

The Converged Code contains various ‘must-carry' provisions, as follows:

  • Pay TV operators are subject to cross-carriage measures (CCM), which were implemented to address high degree of content fragmentation:
    • CCM is limited to live content acquired on an exclusive basis.
    • If a pay TV operator acquires a piece of content on an exclusive basis, it must make that piece of content available for broadcast by all other qualifying pay TV operators and at the same price to the viewers of such qualifying pay TV operators.
    • The piece of content must be cross-carried by the other qualifying TV operators in its entirety and in an unmodified/unedited form.
  • Prohibition on hoarding certain specified programmes:
    • Any free-to-air TV licensee which obtains any exclusive broadcast right in connection with certain specified programmes must broadcast a reasonable portion of the programme on its service.
    • Where it is unable to broadcast, the licensee must make the broadcast right available to all other free-to-air TV licensees at least four months prior to the time of broadcast and at a reasonable price that is no higher than the licensee's costs in sub-licensing the programme.

7.4 Do any local content requirements apply in your jurisdiction? Do any restrictions apply to foreign content? What exemptions and/or exceptions are available?

For local content, there are no express rules in this regard. However, the following points are notable:

  • A broadcasting licensee may be required to broadcast certain programmes provided by the IMDA or the Singapore government (eg, educational, informational, arts and cultural programmes produced in Singapore) as condition of its licence, at its own cost; and
  • All cable and internet provider-based TV licensees must provide access to all local free-to-air channels on their network.

For foreign programmes, there are also no explicit regulations in this regard. However:

  • the Minister for Communications and Information may make an order proscribing any foreign broadcasting service if:
    • the IMDA considers that the quality or content of such service is unacceptable; and
    • the Minister is satisfied that it includes any matter which prejudices the public interest or order, national harmony or offends against good taste or decency; and
  • anyone that supplies any equipment or means for running of the proscribed service or advertise or promote such service will be guilty of an offence.

7.5 What other content requirements and restrictions apply in your jurisdiction? Do these vary depending on the distribution channel (eg, traditional broadcast media versus new media)?

The content requirements and restrictions are contained in:

  • the Broadcasting Act;
  • the Broadcasting Class Licence (Notification);
  • the applicable codes of practice; and
  • the specific terms and conditions of the licence issued to the licensee.

The content requirements and restrictions between traditional broadcast media versus new media vary to the extent that rules for the latter are slightly more stringent, given the more loosely regulated nature of the Internet.

All broadcasting licensees, including traditional media, are subject to the general conditions set out in the Broadcasting Act. For instance, the IMDA may require any programme whose content it deems may be against the public interest or order, national harmony or offensive to decency to be submitted to it for approval prior to broadcast. Traditional broadcast media are encouraged to observe programming and content guidelines which focus on national objectives, racial and religious harmony, and promote positive social values, under the relevant content codes.

Audiotext providers, ISPs and ICPs are subject to stricter regulation under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification. For instance, there must be no broadcasting or promotion of certain specified vice activities under the notification. ISPs must also offer new subscribers a free trial period of specified content filter services, which allows them to prevent access by an end user to online content that contains sexually explicit or violent material. ICPs that provide content promoting discussion of any political or religious issues relating to Singapore must also register with the IMDA within 14 days of commencing the service.

7.6 How is advertising regulated in your jurisdiction? Does this vary depending on the distribution channel?

The Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) is the industry regulator. It publishes the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice (SCAP).

SCAP lays down broad industry codes and guidelines. Its basic premise is that all advertisements should be legal, decent, honest and truthful. It applies to all advertisements for goods, services and facilities appearing in any form or media.

It seeks to promote a high standard of ethics through self-regulation. ASAS can ask an advertiser to amend or withdraw any advertisement that is contrary to SCAP. If an advertiser does not comply, there are no legal penalties, but it may face industry sanctions, such as:

  • blacklisting by ASAS; and
  • withdrawal of facilities, contractual rights or services from other industry players that are members of ASAS.

The advertising regulations differ to some extent based on the distribution channel:

  • For interactive ads appearing on the Internet and online services, it is acknowledged that international communication is carried in a free, more loosely regulated context. Hence, advertisers should be clear on whether their services are free and the point of confirmation of purchase and review of purchase. They should also not transmit messages which contain pornographic, violent or racist or sexist content.
  • For advertising appearing on interactive and social media, the Guidelines for Interactive Marketing Communication and Social Media apply. These:
    • set out standards of ethical conduct to be adopted by all marketers;
    • establish level of disclosure required of sponsored messages appearing on social media;
    • prohibit false reviews and engagement; and
    • dictate the clarity of the purchase process in e-commerce.

8 Competition

8.1 What competition-related provisions (eg, structural or functional separation requirements; significant market power requirements; media plurality rules) apply in the following sectors: (a) Telecommunications; (b) Internet; (c) Media (broadcasting + print) and (d) Social media?

The Info-communications Media Development Authority's (IMDA) Converged Code – a new consolidated competition code to jointly regulate competition in both the telecommunications and media markets – took effect on 2 May 2022. This supersedes the Code of Practice for Competition in the Provision of Telecom Services 2012 (TCC) and the Code of Practice for Market Conduct in the Provision of Media Services (MCC).

The Converged Code provides as follows:

  • Dominant entities are subject to general obligations against abuse of dominant position. A telecommunications licensee or regulated person will be a ‘dominant entity' if it:
    • operates facilities used to provide telecommunications services which are sufficiently costly or difficult to replicate; or
    • has significant market power (SMP) in any market in which it operates.
  • Certain practices that would amount to abuse of dominant position by telecommunications or media providers with SMP are prohibited:
    • Cross-subsidisation: Using revenues generated from a market in which it has SMP to subsidise the goods and services that it provides in markets that are subject to a greater degree of competition; and
    • Unreasonable tying and bundling: Tying or bundling of two or more products and services for sale, which results in the anti-competitive foreclosure of market(s) to competitors.
  • To prevent any telecommunications or media provider from using its market position to unreasonably restrict competition, the IMDA may require such provider to:
    • deal with its affiliates on commercial terms or at arm's length; or
    • adopt accounting separation, cost allocation rules and other behavioural safeguards governing its relationships with its affiliates.

8.2 To what extent can the national competition regulator intervene in the relevant sectors? What is the interplay between the competition regulator and the various sectoral regulators?

The Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) establishes and administers the general competition law under the Competition Act. However, the Competition Act provides that it does not apply insofar as another regulatory authority (other than the CCCS) has jurisdiction in a particular competition matter.

The IMDA is the converged regulator for the info-communications and media sectors (which broadly includes internet and social media platforms). Accordingly, the CCCS does not have jurisdiction over all competition matters falling under the IMDA's purview under the joint telecommunications and media regulatory regime in the Converged Code.

However, in cases where the CCCS and a regulatory authority's powers overlap on a particular competition issue in a particular sector, the CCCS and the authority may enter into a cooperation agreement to:

  • facilitate cooperation in performing their duties;
  • avoid duplication in their assessments; and
  • ensure consistency of decisions taken in relation to the acts being assessed for impact on competition.

The Minister for Trade and Industry can also make arrangements to allocate powers between the CCCS and the other regulatory authority.

8.3 How are mergers and acquisitions in the relevant sectors treated from a competition perspective?

Telecommunications or media licensees seeking to enter into an acquisition, merger or other consolidation must submit requests or consolidation applications in prescribed situations. If the IMDA considers that the transaction is likely result in a substantial lessening of competition or to be against the public interest, it will reject the application or impose appropriate conditions.

In terms of transactions that are subject to the IMDA's scrutiny, the Converged Code covers transactions involving any person acquiring ownership in a regulated person or in a designated telecommunications licensee.

The following notification and approval requirements are imposed on M&A activity involving licensees.


There are two application forms for IMDA approval:

  • the short-form consolidation application form, which is a streamlined application process for transactions which the IMDA believes are less likely to raise competition concerns; and
  • the long-form consolidation application form for all other applications.

Under the TCC and MMC, the thresholds for qualification to use the short-form or long-form consolidation differ. For uniformity between the media and telecommunications sectors, the Converged Code has adopted a 30% market share threshold to determine this:

  • Consolidations involving at least 12% but less than 30% of the ownership interest in a licensee can rely on a short-form application; and
  • Consolidations involving 30% or more of such ownership interest or effective control of a licensee will require a long-form application.

8.4 What other specific challenges or concerns do the relevant sectors present from a competition perspective?

Impact of non-traditional digital platforms: In the consultations on the Converged Code, the IMDA acknowledged that changing digital business models may result in an updated interpretation of competition, moving beyond traditional price and output metrics. It will monitor developments in the digital economy which could lead to an overhaul of traditional competition frameworks and regulations in the future.

Over-the-top (OTT) media services: In the responses to the consultations, there was some concern over the IMDA's decision not to impose further regulations on the OTT market, despite the growth in demand for OTT services. Some respondents saw this as somewhat discriminatory against telecommunications licensees.

The IMDA explained that its approach towards OTT services is due to the lower barriers to entry in the OTT market. In contrast, the pay TV service market is characterised by heavy infrastructure investments that may be a barrier to market entry, which in turn impacts on how pay TV services are sold (ie, in bundles, with minimum contractual periods and early termination charges to encourage ‘stickiness' with subscribers).

Given the evolving conditions, the IMDA will monitor developments and review the need for regulatory intervention.

Service bundling: Bundle-play is increasingly bring offered by media and telecommunications providers. While bundling does not typically result in anti-competitive effects, unreasonable bundling has the potential to allow dominant players to leverage their dominance in one market to distort competition in other relatively competitive markets. Therefore, the IMDA has included this as a specific prohibition under the Converged Code for clarity.

9 Data security and cybersecurity

9.1 What data security regimes apply in the following sectors: (a) Telecommunications; (b) Internet; (c) Media (broadcasting + print) and (d) Social media?

These sectors are all subject to the general data protection regime under the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) and its related regulations administered by the Personal Data Protection Commission, as well as by sector-specific regulation. In the case of any inconsistency between the two, the latter will generally take precedence.

Under Section 24 of the PDPA, all organisations which collect, use or disclose personal data must protect personal data in possession or under their control by making reasonable security arrangements to prevent:

  • unauthorised access, collection, use, disclosure, copying, modification, disposal or similar risks; and
  • the loss of any storage medium or device on which the personal data is stored.

Under the PDPA framework, the Advisory Guidelines for the Telecommunications Sector attempt to address the unique circumstances faced by telecommunications players in complying with the PDPA.

In addition, the PDPC has issued:

  • the Guide to Managing and Notifying Data Breaches under the PDPA;
  • the Guide to Data Protection by Design for ICT Systems; and
  • the Guide to Securing Personal Data in Electronic Medium and the Guide on Building Websites for SMEs.

These set out the reasonable security arrangements that can be adopted by organisations in the protection of personal data.

Under the competition regime, the Converged Code governs the use of end-user service information by all telecommunications licensees. Different provisions apply, depending on whether the licensee is dealing with a business end user or a residential end user.

9.2 What cybersecurity regimes apply in the following sectors: (a) Telecommunications; (b) Internet; (c) Media (broadcasting + print) and (d) Social media?

The primary law governing cybersecurity in Singapore is the Cybersecurity Act, which is administered by the Ministry of Communications and the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore. Broadly, it:

  • creates a framework for the protection of designated ‘critical information infrastructure' (CII) against cybersecurity threats. ‘CII' covers computers or computer systems that are necessary for continuous delivery of an essential service, the loss or compromise of which would have a debilitating effect on the availability of the essential service in Singapore. It is regulated in 11 critical sectors, which includes the info-communications and media sectors;
  • authorises the taking of measures to prevent, manage and respond to cybersecurity threats and incidents; and
  • establishes a licensing framework for providers of licensable cybersecurity services in Singapore – specifically, managed security operations centre monitoring services and penetration testing services.

Recently, the Cybersecurity Agency of Singapore issued the second edition of its Code of Practice for CII, effective 4 July 2022. The revised code is intended to specify the minimum requirements that the CII owner must implement to ensure the cybersecurity of the CII. However, the CII owner is expected to implement measures beyond those stipulated in this code to further strengthen the cybersecurity of the CII based on the cybersecurity risk profile of the CII.

Other laws that promote cybersecurity include:

  • the Computer Misuse Act 1993;
  • the Telecommunication Cybersecurity Code of Practice; and
  • the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Guide.

9.3 What other specific challenges or concerns do the relevant sectors present from a data security/cybersecurity perspective?

Consent: Given the increased speed and efficiency of the modern digital economy, and the weakening effectiveness of consent to data collection and use, the PDPA's consent framework was revised in February 2021 to introduce deemed consent exceptions, by contractual necessity and by notification.

This acknowledges companies' increasing need for flexibility in legitimate personal data usage and the practicability of individuals spending less attention on dealing with consent and consent withdrawal.

Outsourcing telecommunications services: The increased use of cloud technology by telecommunications providers in outsourcing their services has increased the prevalence of cybersecurity threats, especially to cloud-based businesses.

In response, the Info-communications Media Development Authority had introduced a Multi-Tier Cloud Security Singapore standard for cloud service providers, to encourage their adoption of sound risk management and security practices through certification. The transfer limitation obligation under the PDPA also requires the contract to expressly state the locations to which the personal data may be transferred.

Human error causing breach: Human error is a widely known primary cause of data security breaches and leaks. This ranges from a lack of concentration to failure to understand the risks and consequences of one's own actions in handling information.

Breaches from human error are a significant problem as they typically take longer to identify and contain, so the damage can escalate. This problem seems to have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and transition to work-from-home arrangements, where employees are more likely to transmit confidential information online, rather than in person.

10 Trends and predictions

10.1 How would you describe the current TMT industry landscape and prevailing trends in your jurisdiction? Are any new developments anticipated in the next 12 months, including any proposed legislative reforms?

The TMT industry is evolving rapidly. Key trends include:

  • the rise of non-traditional media and the diminishing reach of traditional media platforms, (eg, increased over-the-top usage; increased digital advertising, through Google and Facebook; switch to on-demand platforms);
  • changing business models in the digital economy and the impact on competition policy and regulation; and
  • the explosion of data usage in the artificial intelligence (AI) industry allowing AI companies to scale rapidly, which may justify the need for early regulatory intervention.

Anticipated developments include the following:

  • During the Budget 2022 debate on 4 March 2022, the Minister for Communications and Information announced that new codes of practice will be introduced requiring online platforms to implement systems that ensure online safety. The proposed new codes are expected to cover child safety, user reporting and platform accountability.
  • On 1 April 2022, the Telecommunications (Dispute Resolution Scheme) Regulations 2022 and the Info-communications Media Development Authority (Dispute Resolution Scheme) Regulations 2022 came into effect.
  • The Converged Code came into operation in May 2022. There are still further clauses to be updated as these first require the amendment of the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) Act (eg, anti-competitive clauses; the IMDA's ability to review consolidation transactions).
  • The IMDA and the Economic Development Board will pilot a call for application to construct new data centres with a focus on sustainability. Permits will only be granted for proposed data centres that meet a strict set of energy efficiency criteria.

11 Tips and traps

11.1 What are your top tips for TMT players seeking to operate in your jurisdiction and what potential sticking points would you highlight?

  • Telecommunications and media players may wish to reassess existing sale and pricing strategies, given:
    • regulatory scrutiny of new anti-competitive practices (ie, unreasonable bundling, cross-subsidisation for media players); and
    • changes to the assessment of the anti-competitive nature of certain practices (ie, price squeezing – adoption of the equally efficient operator test over the reasonably efficient operator test) under the Converged Code.
  • Telecommunications and media players should review their existing acquisition strategies, given the standardisation of the threshold for presuming significant market power for dominant entities. This is a loosening of the threshold for telecommunications players, but a tightening for media players.
  • As they are more likely to be data driven, TMT organisations should invest more in data protection, especially data security, given the reduced focus on consent and consent withdrawal:
    • Telecommunications players which outsource using cloud technology are especially encouraged to invest more in data security and cybersecurity, given the heightened risk of data compromise in such a situation; and
    • Companies which use artificial intelligence-led technology to prepare for possible early intervention in this sector. Therefore, while they scale, to also invest correspondingly in the security of data being used.
  • Audiotext/social media providers should prepare for possible government measures on data privacy (ie, sharing with related third parties) in the future. Singapore's current data protection framework currently focuses more on protection and security (ie, against data leaks); but given the recent WhatsApp privacy policy incident and the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, it is possible the government may take pre-emptive measures on this area in the future.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

See More Popular Content From

Mondaq uses cookies on this website. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies as set out in our Privacy Policy.

Learn More