Fire at SingTel building disrupts telco, ATM services

A fire at SingTel's network exchange at Bukit Panjang in the Northwest of Singapore has affected its services and of those leasing its lines, such as rival telcos' fiber broadband and cable TV, and bank ATMs and branches.
Written by Ryan Huang, Contributor

A fire at SingTel's network exchange at Bukit Panjang has disrupted services of its own and rival telcos, and including those of banks and Singapore Pools.

singtel fire
One of 3 chambers at the Bukit Panjang exchange had 149 cables damaged by fire (source: SingTel)

According to a SingTel spokesperson, the fire broke out at 2pm, causing damage to network infrastructure.

This affected some fixed voice lines, broadband, and TV services in Woodlands, Bukit Panjang, Chua Chu Kang, Upper Bukit Timah and Mandai, as well as mobile services in parts of Woodlands, Marsiling and Kranji, it added. Data lines for some corporate customers were also affected.

"Some services have already been restored since the fire was extinguished at around 3pm. Our engineers will continue to work through the night to restore the remaining services as soon as possible," said a SingTel spokesperson.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force had received a call at 2.16pm to attend to the fire, which broke out at a cable room in level one of the building, located at 40 Woodlands Road, according to Today. The fire was extinguished in 20 minutes by two water jets and no injuries were reported, it added.
Restoration efforts could only begin after 6pm when the SCDF cleared the area for access, said the SingTel spokesperson, adding repairs were expected to be complete by 6am on Thursday.

The damage from the fire, according to SingTel:

  • 33 fiber cables (Update: 149 cables hit)
  • 100 mobile base stations
  • Around 60,000 fixed broadband lines
  • Around 30,000 mio TV customers
  • Around 30,000 voice lines

Rival broadband services, cable TV hit

Rival telcos M1 and StarHub were among those whose services were hit because they run on lines owned by incumbent SingTel, affecting their fiber broadband and cable TV customers.

Mock Pak Lum, StarHub's Chief Technology Officer, said: "As we lease some SingTel optical fiber capacity that runs through this exchange, this has affected StarHub's cable TV, cable and fiber broadband, and digital voice services for some of our customers. We are monitoring the situation closely and working to restore services as soon as we can."

The outage also hit stores with M1 reporting that its Causeway Point store's systems were being affected, leading to "significantly longer than usual" waiting times.

Bank ATMs and branches hit

In a statement, DBS said the fire had disrupted some of its ATMs, AXS services, and 18 of its branches including those at Changi Airport, Hougang, and Raffles Place. It added branches would remain open for an extra hour for customers. Services to most branches have since been restored at around 7pm, said a spokesperson.

According to OCBC, 11 of its ATMs were hit.

Sales and payment operations at all Singapore Pools outlets except the main branch were also out, leading it to delay its Wednesday 4D draw to 9pm from 6.30pm.

The fire comes just a week after M1 was fined a record S$1.5 million (US$1.2 million) for Singapore's worst network outage, when various services were disrupted for around three days in January. Regulator Infocomm Authority of Singapore (IDA) had reprimanded M1 for poor electrical installation practices and inadequate risk assessment practices, which led to sparks and smoke setting off a water sprinkler in a network center.

Update October 10, 2013 2pm: SingTel says damage worse than thought, 149 cables hit instead of 33

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