Annual licence fees for all mobile phone users in Singapore have been scrapped by the Telecommunications Authority of Singapore (TAS), as part of its celebration of liberalisation day in the Singapore telecoms market. Licence fees waived yesterday include the S$50 (about HK$267.50) annual fee payable to TAS for each cellular mobile telephone, plus a host of other charges for trunked radio and mobile data subscribers. The move will affect more than 450,000 people, and save users in total $23 million a year. Minister for Communications Mah Boh Tan announced the move at the razzamatazz launch of ST Messaging's SunPage. This was one of three new paging services and one new mobile phone service that formally began operations yesterday, breaking Singapore Telecom's monopoly. Other newcomers in the paging market are Hutchison IntraPage, 40 per cent owned by Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa, and MobileOne (M1), in which Hongkong Telecom and British parent Cable & Wireless each have a 15 per cent stake. M1 has also won a lucrative mobile-phone licence. SunPage, a unit of state-owned Singapore Technologies, marked its debut in the paging market with a laser show, fireworks, a giant balloon and psychedelic lighting. It announced the cheapest rates yet for a basic paging service at $9.80 a month, compared to Hutchison IntraPage's $9.90 and SingTel Paging's $15. IntraPage, celebrated its debut with men wandering around the streets dressed as babies, distributing flyers in line with the company's 'Birth of a New Attitude' advertising theme and a special offer to buy pagers for just $38. IntraPage said it had already signed up 10,000 subscribers. Hutchison Paging chief executive Raphael Goh Kee Hong said: 'Despite popular perception that the paging market in Singapore is saturated, our high take-up rate proves otherwise.' M1's launch party on Monday was a washout. Thousands of people turned up at Boat Quay lured by an offer of cheap mobile phones and pagers, plus a promised fireworks show, only to be driven away by a storm. TAS yesterday also announced the launch of a $100 million development grant scheme, to encourage local telecommunications companies to upgrade their network infrastructure and improve their technological capability to compete in the local and global telecommunications market. The scheme will support projects that encourage technology transfers by foreign companies. Already a host of foreign firms are involved in this first phase of liberalisation. More are expected to try to tap the Singapore market when the next phase of opening takes place at the end of 2001, when the republic will allow up to two more mobile phone operators and up to two competitors in the fixed-line market, where SingTel's monopoly still stands.