Singapore lays out ground rules to minimise cable cuts, service disruptions

Facilities-based operators and earthworks contractors will have to comply with new standardised procedures detailing how earthworks should be carried out, following service disruptions in recent years that have been the result of cable cut incidents.

Singapore has laid out a new set of ground rules for earthworks carried out in the city-state, following service disruptions in recent years that have been the result of telecommunication cable cut incidents. The standardised earthworks requirements aim to minimise such risks and establish greater clarity for facilities-based operators (FBOs) and earthworks contractors on the requirements they have to adopt. 

These service providers would have to comply with the new rules by June 1, 2019, when earthworks were carried out in the vicinity of underground telecommunication cables, said industry regulator Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) on Monday. 

"To prevent damage to the FBOs' telecommunications cables, the earthworks requirements set out detailed, step-by-step procedures, and comprehensive safeguards that earthworks contractors must observe before commencing and while undertaking earthworks. They also specify the measures that contractors must comply with when FBOs' telecommunication cables need to be diverted," the government agency said. 

Failure to comply with these requirements would be an offence under the Telecommunications Act, it cautioned. 

IMDA said its investigations revealed failure to exercise due diligence and observe procedures laid out by FBOs was a frequent cause of fibre cable cut incidents in the past. Earthworks procedures also currently were not standardised amongst FBOs, varying in terms of standard and comprehensiveness, it noted, adding that there were more than 20 such operators in Singapore today, all of which had different sets of procedures for contractors. This could lead to confusion amongst these vendors, it said. 

FBOs also would have to comply with the new requirements and assist earthworks contractors. For instance, IMDA said, operators must attend joint site meetings and trial hole inspections to verify earthworks contractors had properly ascertained the locations of their telecommunications cables before earthworks could commence.  

IMDA's deputy chief executive and director-general of telecoms and post, Aileen Chia, said: "Our digital economy is built on resilient connectivity. The standardised earthworks requirements will ensure that contractors and FBOs have the right processes when they work on our telecommunication infrastructure. [IMDA] will continue to work with them and the construction industry to prevent telecommunication cable cuts and reduce inconvenience to our consumers and businesses."

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