SINGAPORE--The next-generation national broadband network marks another milestone as its operating company (OpCo), Nucleus Connect, announced on Tuesday that it has started commercial operations and counts the country's three local telcos as part of its first five customers.
Nucleus Connect CEO David Storrie said during media briefing here that the company will fulfill its promise to offer open, non-discriminatory pricing to retail service providers (RSPs). As OpCo of the NBN, Nucleus Connect is responsible for designing, building and operating the "active infrastructure", enabling the service provider to act as a wholesaler of the network's bandwidth and provide broadband connectivity to downstream operators such as RSPs. These RSPs will in turn package and resell the broadband services to end-users.
Storrie revealed that SingTel, M1, StarHub, LGA Telecom and SuperInternet had signed up to become the first five RSPs to tap the OpCo's network to provide broadband access and services to consumers and businesses.
In a media statement Tuesday, however, SingTel unveiled its own intention to become an OpCo. A SingTel spokesperson told ZDNet Asia that it will use its OpCo status to target specifically the enterprise customer segment, while its RSP agreement with Nucleus Connect will support its consumer-focused services.
Asked about SingTel's OpCo bid, Storrie said he "knew it was coming" and reiterated Nucleus Connect's value proposition of open, non-discriminatory pricing. He added that his company's price plans will "attract" RSPs to utilize its offerings.
According to Storrie, another five potential customers were evaluating their options to sign on with Nucleus Connect and these will be finalized "by the end of the year". If they do so, the figure will still be slightly off the original target of 12 RSPs the OpCo had previously set. Storrie revealed that one or two foreign RSPs had "dropped away" from their initial interest after determining that the existing coverage areas did not correspond with their customer base.
Currently, the NGN's network company (NetCo) OpenNet has deployed its dark fiber to over 40 percent of local households and office buildings, and is on track to meet the 95 percent coverage across the island by 2012, according to Storrie. The OpenNet consortium comprises of Axia NetMedia, SingTel, Singapore Press Holdings and SP Telecommunications.
Asked if more could be done to manage the prioritizing of coverage areas to attract more RSPs, Storrie explained that not all of Nucleus Connect's suggestions on where coverage should be given priority "were taken in" by the NetCo.
However, he was also quick to point out that the NetCo is "doing its best" to roll out the fiber as fast as possible.
OpenNet had opted to pick at the "low-lying fruit" by focusing on areas in Singapore that were already fitted out with SingTel's existing infrastructure, said Storrie, who noted that this was the reason the deployment of the NBN could be brought forward to 2012 instead of the original target of 2015.
He added that people should not read too much into why foreign RSPs had walked away from utilizing the network. "Many of the RSPs we have spoken to are very excited about the [progress of] the NBN but right now, they are holding back because of the lack of network ubiquity," he said.
As for future RSP uptake, Storrie said he expects the adoption rate to "grow, but slowly". He cited factors such as network ubiquity and user confidence in a new network as key hindrances, but said he is confident more RSPs will sign on in the future and raise the current tally of five.
SingTel parades wares
Having stated its intentions on becoming an OpCo, SingTel also revealed a slew of offerings for both enterprise users and consumers.
Enterprise customers, for instance, will be able to leverage the telco's eVolve business package to utilize managed services and cloud computing capabilities, the company said in a media release Tuesday. For cloud services, in particular, customers can access SingTel's online storage, real-time backup and data collaboration services to boost productivity, it said.
eVolve will be available in two price plans, SingTel said, with the lower-end 30Mbps plan costing S$248 (US$183.2) while the 100Mbps plan costs S$298 (US$220.1). Both plans will be subjected to a one-time sign-on fee of S$321 (US$237.1), the company added.
The telco also revealed its optical fiber broadband connection plans for consumers, catering to four different user groups.
For instance, sports fans can sign up for its explore Home Sports package, which would cost users S$109.9 (US$81.2) per month for a 24-month subscription contract. This would give them access to the SingTel's Mio Stadium ESPN Start Sports Twinpack.
All plans will include a universal inbox, which works with e-mail as well as social networking sites, 10GB of online storage, high-definition video chat and unlimited digital home line services, the telco stated.