The Singapore broadband market is expected to grow rapidly due to the government’s plan to build a nationwide multi-million dollar ultra high-speed broadband network. The Government of Singapore will commit up to $ 700 million (S$ 1 billion) through grants. The Fiber to the Home (FTTH) network is expected to debut in 2010 and reach nationwide coverage by 2015. Household broadband penetration rate in Singapore reached 86.8% in June 2008. Singapore has 28 Tbps of submarine cable capacity and international telecoms connectivity to more than 100 countries. It will have direct cable connectivity to the U.S. when the Asia American Gateway starts operation in early 2009.
There are excellent opportunities for U.S. vendors and service providers to participate in the new FTTH network and sell hardware, software, and solutions to the Singapore domestic market as well as through Singapore to the neighboring Asian countries. Singapore depends on imports for its broadband needs. It also serves as a major distribution center for companies interested in selling to the region as reflected by re-export data. Over 70% of ICT goods imported into Singapore are re-exported for third-country consumption. Areas of best prospects include equipment, technologies, solutions, services and content related to broadband.
Singapore is one of the most wired countries in the world with a nation-wide network of fiber optic cables. The World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report ranked Singapore fifth in the world in 2008 while the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) E-readiness Report ranked Singapore sixth in the world in 2007 and 2008. The Government of Singapore plays an important and active role in promoting the adoption of ICT in the country. It was ranked number one in Accenture’s e-Government Customer Service Maturity Ranking 2007.
In June 2006, the government announced iN2015 , a 10-year IT masterplan. Most significant was the Next Generation National Infocomm Infrastructure (Nex Gen NII) that includes a Next Generation National Broadband Network . The FTTH network will provide "pervasive and competitively priced ultra high-speed broadband connectivity 1 Gbit/s or more to business users at the workplace as well as to Singaporeans at home, schools and learning institutions, and other premises." The Government of Singapore will partly fund the construction of the nationwide broadband network that will be completed by 2015. Singaporeans are expected to experience high-definition video conferencing, telemedicine, grid computingon- demand and immersive learning applications on the Next Generation National Broadband Network (Next Gen NBN) by 2010. Business users will have ready access to a robust and pervasive network that can support dataintensive transactions such as real-life high-definition video conferencing and graphics-based data visualization. Small and medium enterprises will be able to tap on grid computing applications and data storage facilities at competitive rates while students can make use of visually immersive and interactive learning applications for a richer and deeper educational experience. The Next Gen NII also called for a wireless broadband network (Wireless@SG) which went online in December 2006 and is available gratis until 2009. There were more than 7,400 Wireless@SG hotspots located around Singapore as of July 2008.
The IDA announced that the Next Gen NBN will comprise three key industry layers: the Network Company, the Operating Company, and downstream operators such as Retail Service Providers. The Operating Company will sell wholesale bandwidth capacity to Retail Service Providers who in turn will provide next generation services to end-consumers. The Operating Company will play an important role to bring about a competitive and vibrant broadband market by providing Retail Service Providers with open access to Next Gen NBN's active infrastructure. The Retail Service Providers is expected to enjoy competitive wholesale prices which the Singapore government hopes would translate into competitive end-user prices.
The RFP for the Network Company was called on December 11, 2007 and when it closed on May 5, 2008, two consortiums submitted bids to design, build and operate the passive infrastructure layer of the Next Gen NBN. The two consortiums were Infinity and OpenNet. The OpenNet Consortium was led by Axia NetMedia Corporation and its other partners include Singapore Press Holdings Ltd, Singapore Telecommunications Pte Ltd and SP Telecommunications Pte Ltd. The Infinity Consortium was led by City Telecom (H.K.) Limited and its other partners include two of the three mobile operators in Singapore: MobileOne Ltd and Starhub Ltd. On August 20, 2008, it was announced that Starhub will take over as the lead for the Infinity Consortium as City Telecom dropped out of the project. The IDA is expected to announce the results in the third quarter of 2008 and will provide a grant of up to S$750 million (US$577) to the winner.
The IDA issued a RFP on April 7, 2008 to invite interested parties to bid to become the Operating Company (OpCo) of the Next Gen NBN. Eleven companies were pre-qualified to be consortium leads for the bid and they include Alcatel-Lucent, Axia NetMedia, BT Singapore, City Telecom (HK), Deutsche Telekom Asia, MobileOne, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone West, Nokia Siemens Networks, Singapore Computer Systems, Singapore Telecommunications and StarHub. The tender is expected to be awarded by the first quarter of 2009 and the Singapore government will provide a grant of up to S$250 million (US$192million) to the successful bidder.
By Chia Swee Hoon