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Territory gears up for digital rollout

World Brief

SINGAPORE — With digital TV to be a reality here by year-end, a second feevee license still up for grabs and government funding for digital to the tune of $7 million, Singapore’s high-tech aspirations remain on-track.

End 2003 is the target for pay TV monopoly holder StarHub Cable Vision to roll out digital TV, and for terrestrial player MediaCorp to do a trial run of terrestrial digital TV.

Meanwhile StarHub’s telecommunications rival SingTel looks poised to become the second pay TV player despite a public spat after SingTel alleged that StarHub provided business phone services via domestic phone lines.

But many question whether audience demand is really there for the wealth of viewer choices afforded by digital and a potential second feevee in a market of just 4 million people. Takeup of pay TV stands at 37%, low compared to markets such as Taiwan — especially as 99% of Singapore is cable-ready. But StarHub Cable Vision is encouraged by a recent 3.4% increase in subscriptions, up from 356,000 in January to 368,000 at the end of May.