A look behind MyRepublic, the new fibre-only broadband kid in town

Managing director of MyRepublic, Vaughan Baker
In 2012 when MyRepublic first dipped its toes in the Singapore market, it stirred the hornet’s nest quite a bit, setting cushy incumbents Starhub, SingTel and M1 into rethinking their approach to marketing ultrafast broadband.

MyRepublic promises to do the same in New Zealand, announcing at its launch a week ago (Oct 9) a three-month free trial with unlimited data access. It is also putting its stake out for the geeks and gamers, those prone to watching movies and videos on line.

Just who is MyRepublic and what has its success in Singapore got to do with being successful in New Zealand, Idealog asks managing director Vaughan Baker.

First take note of MyRepublic’s investors. It counts among its shareholders Sunshine Network, the telco arm of Sinar Mas. Sinar Mas is one of Indonesia’s largest conglomerates, owned by Eka Tjipta Widjaja. Widjaja is a self-made billionaire who left China as a teen and survived world war 2 and Indonesia’s internal revolution. Sinar Mas’ jewel in the crown is Asia Pulp and Paper Mill, but the group owns pretty much a piece of everything including real estate, finance, mining to agri business. Widjaja’s personal wealth is estimated at over US$12 million.  

Another of MyRepublic’s investors is Xavier Niel, technology entrepreneur and founder of Free Mobile in France whom Forbes estimates to have a personal wealth of around US$7 billion. Free Mobile launched in France, in 2012, selling unlimited calls, texts and internet access for EU$19.99 – disrupting France’ traditional suppliers. Niel is a venture capitalist who had up until last week been competing head-on with Japan’s Masayoshi Son in a US$15-billion cash bid for 57% stake in T-Mobile Inc, from Deutsche Telekom. His company Iliad SA dropped the bid early this week due to resistance from Deutsche Telekom.

Niel in 2010 also led a group of investors who took control over the iconic Le Monde newspaper. He is also reported to have stakes in mobile payments company Square, and music streaming startup Deezer, among others.

The New Zealand company registry list three directors for MyRepublic. They are Baker, and two Singapore-based directors, Malcom Rodrigues and Gregory Mittman. Rodrigues was an ex vice president of Singapore telco StarHub, and Mittman an old hand in broadband industry in Singapore, having led Alcatel-Lucent’s national broadband network (NBN) team.

Baker is an ex-Vodafone employee, and also a former consultant to the New Zealand Regional Fibre Group, a body representing the voice of fibre companies, and electricity line operators with interests in broadband.

Baker is excited about the New Zealand market’s prospect.  Over-the-top content is the way of the future, and more people will ultimately value and seek out high quality fibre broadband connection, he reckons.

Demand for content growing

“Over the Top (OTT) content is growing at an exponential rate - streaming has doubled in the last year and forecast to increase by 8 times in the next two years in the US.”

If what MyRepublic has done in Singapore is an indication of how the market reacts to new offers that is price friendly, the formula should technically work for New Zealand.

MyRepublic shook up Singapore with its crazy pricing, but also caused a bit of unhappiness with installation hiccups.

“We’re responsible for driving the Singapore NBN uptake level beyond 50%.  We haven’t written all that business, but our existence means that the incumbents can’t ignore fibre broadband.  Without a fibre- only internet service provider, ultra-fast broadband uptake would have continued to languish. “

He says the Singapore experience taught MyRepublic that the incumbents were reluctant to promote user-focused fibre broadband services and a truly unlimited (ie. no caps) service. 

“We tune our network to ensure our customers, both consumers and businesses, have a superior network and customer experience. Incumbent operators are not currently structured in a manner that enables them to deliver this.”

He notes that fibre-based broadband is a real game changer and MyRepublic is well poised to unleash the potential for customers.

“Three years ago, Singapore’s fibre broadband uptake was similar to NZ’s. Then MyRepublic launched, driving greater competition and mass market adoption of fibre broadband in Singapore.  We’ll achieve the same here.”

Customer experience, speed

He is certain once New Zealanders understand and appreciate the value of ultra fast broadband, fibre broadband uptake will dramatically improve as consumers shift from legacy copper services to fibre broadband.

The market, however, is not always after fast. Although speed is crucial, customers do move from provider to provider, depending on what customer experience a company offers.

“We’ve found it’s not all about the speed. Late last year prior to the launch of our 1 Gbps (which measures the rate data transfers) service, M1, one of our competitors, undercut us on price for one of our 100Mbps services.  Customers who were price motivated did leave us to take up this offer, but they then came back to us a month or two later. Those customers told us this was because our 100Mbps service was an overall better experience.

“We’ve found that our focus on customer need, and development of products that deliver on those needs, to be a real winner.  We think that strategy works in any market. Particularly a market like NZ that has been under-served for some time.”

MyRepublic's William Shatner telly ad