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StarHub is boosting its enterprise business

The telco's CEO, Tan Tong Hai, has been building up its enterprise capabilities steadily and has just acquired a stake in Accel Systems & Technologies.

"The latest in StarHub's service offering is cyberthreat monitoring, a unique, telco-centric cyberdefence solution which provides comprehensive protection for enterprise end-users . . . with zero integration effort." - StarHub CEO Tan Tong Hai

STARHUB'S recent move to acquire a 51 per cent stake in cybersecurity solutions provider Accel Systems & Technologies for S$19.38 million is expected to strengthen the telco's growing enterprise business which is already its second biggest revenue generator after mobile. According to market sources, the telco may also be in the process of acquiring the remaining 49 per cent of the cybersecurity company.

StarHub's CEO, Tan Tong Hai, notes that Accel's core strengths will enhance the telco's capability, allowing it to provide end-to-end cybersecurity solutions. These would range from consultancy and vulnerability assessment to system integration and delivery, as well as managed cybersecurity services.

"It will also place StarHub in an excellent position to participate in major government and commercial cybersecurity tenders," he adds.

Accel's three main focus areas are information protection, advanced security management and compliance and advanced threat mitigation and response. It is expected to complement StarHub's own security solutions which range from network to endpoint and Web security solutions.

"The latest in StarHub's service offering is cyberthreat monitoring, a unique, telco-centric cyberdefence solution which provides comprehensive protection for enterprise end-users. . . with zero integration effort," notes Mr Tan.

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StarHub has been steadily growing its enterprise business "because it understands its traditional mobile business is becoming increasingly commoditised while the TV business is under assault from various OTT (over the top) players like Netflix", the StarHub CEO adds.

StarHub's first quarter results show that the mobile business contributes 50 per cent of total revenue, the enterprise fixed business 16.7 per cent, pay TV 14.9 per cent and broadband 9.1 per cent. The balance, 9.3 per cent, comes from the sale of equipment, mostly phones.

While growth in other lines of business have been either flat or negative, enterprise fixed has been growing at a steady clip - in the first quarter it grew by 6.5 per cent.

Enterprise journey

Mr Tan notes that ever since he joined the company his endeavour has been to start StarHub on its enterprise journey. He was appointed StarHub's chief operating officer in 2009 and took over as CEO in 2013.

"I haven't stopped this journey. When I joined, enterprise fixed was not even close to the TV business which was then around 19 per cent," he adds.

StarHub is looking to cash in on the vast amount of analytics data that it generates from its mobile subscribers to offer services to its enterprise customers. "StarHub has a large consumer business and I intend to use the analytics generated from this business to help enterprise customers," says Mr Tan.

He takes the example of footfall analytics which provides a rich trove of information.

"Let's take Changi Airport. We do the managed WiFi there and we add analytics to the service. However, this analytics is within the airport. The more important analytics is what happens when people go out of the airport?

"Based on our roaming customers and those who buy pre-paid cards from the airport, we can track, for example, which hotel they go to, whether it is Marina Bay Sands (MBS), Hilton Hotel or any other hotel. We have the combination of geo-location services along with very thorough in-building WiFi analytics. From this we are able to understand the flow of traffic."

Mr Tan notes that this kind of footfall analytics is very useful for different kinds of businesses like, for example, medical tourism. Giving an example he says, Raffles Hospital would like to know which hospital has a bigger share of medical tourists. We can see the flow of people to respective hospitals and can identify which hospital has a bigger share, he adds.

Another market is mall operators. "Their objective is to help their tenants to grow sales. . . The tenants may complain about footfalls to the mall but using our data the landlord can convince them that the mall has the most footfalls among competing malls and also provide details about how long people stay in the mall."

Mr Tan adds that all data supplied are anonymised and given StarHub's mobile user base of nearly two million, adding both pre- and post-paid, the statistical base is broad enough to do an accurate estimate.

Talking about cybersecurity, Mr Tan says that StarHub's security offering is very telco-centric, non-intrusive and "acts as a second pair of eyes" to help enterprise customers.

"Today StarHub supplies telecom lines to banks, hotels, hospitals and other enterprises. If they give us consent we listen to the (data) packets that are coming and going within the network.

"How do we provide security? From our own analytics we know which are the malicious sites globally. If data flows from these sites to an enterprise network we figure out that they may have a problem."

Mr Tan adds that StarHub can see at the line level. "When you see at that level you are able to understand if this attack is on the banking sector, hospitals or hotels. This is the kind of analytics we are talking about. This is more important to look at from the national level because a lot of the customers do not know that their lines have been hacked."

Second pair of eyes

He notes that in the past all cyberattacks were "signature based". "Now viruses are not signature based and they have machine learning capabilities and are not coming in through the traditional way."

Mr Tan adds that StarHub's security operations centre (SOC) helps to identify these attacks. "In a way we are telling enterprises that you can go ahead and subscribe to traditional cybersecurity products but if you want a second pair of eyes, we can lend that to you through our cyberthreat management service."

He adds that StarHub currently provides this service for fixed line broadband. It will next offer this service for mobile and further down the road for IoT (Internet of Things) devices. He adds that telcos are best positioned to provide security because they "are at the heart of the eco-system".

Talking about the challenges StarHub would face once the fourth telco operator, TPG Telecom, starts services from next year, Mr Tan says: "When the new player comes in it will take some time for it to build out to be true quad play or triple play (like StarHub) service provider. Today it may be dual play comprising mobile and broadband.

"How will it compete with a triple service player?", Mr Tan asks. By triple play Mr Tan is referring to the ability to provide mobile, broadband (both fibre and cable) and TV services in one package.

He notes that all these years StarHub has been competing with M1 "which is a dual service provider and a very formidable one". M1 provides mobile and broadband services.

The StarHub CEO adds that his company has the ability to mix and match to compete or to differentiate. "Also clearly over the years we have pulled ourselves closer to the incumbent (Singapore Telecommunications) because of our enterprise play. By pulling ourselves even closer (to Singtel) we are building the market such that there are two players in the enterprise space." Mr Tan feels with IoT and Smart Nation, there will be plenty of opportunities for the enterprise side of StarHub's business to grow even faster.

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