Singapore opens broadband tender

Country calls for bids to begin work on its next-generation national broadband network, touted to provide access speeds of more than 1Gbps.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor on

update SINGAPORE--The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) today announced a request-for-proposal (RFP) for the country's next-generation national broadband network (NBN), calling for bids to design, build and operate the network's infrastructure layer.

First unveiled in early 2006, the NBN is touted to provide broadband access speeds beyond 1Gbps, or 500 times the common access speed of 2Mbps. The network is expected to be available across Singapore by 2015, according to the IDA.

The ICT regulator explained that the NBN will be constructed in phases, starting with today's tender for the "network company" responsible for designing, building and operating the NBN's wireline infrastructure, which will carry the network's traffic.

The next phase will involve the call for bids to be the "operating company", which will be awarded the responsibility of building the NGN's active infrastructure, including the switches and transmission equipment required to handle the flow of network traffic. This phase of the project is scheduled to take place in the second quarter of 2008.

According to the IDA, the appointed "network company" will be required to have "separated operations, branding, personnel and board of directors" from downstream operators, such as retail service providers that will be purchasing bandwidth connectivity to provide services to the public.

This, the ICT regulator said, will ensure effective open access for users and encourage market competition.

It added that the Singapore government is "prepared to consider legislation" to achieve this open environment.

Said Khoong Hock Yun, assistant chief executive of the IDA's infrastructure development group, said: "Structural separation will enable multiple service providers to plug into the infrastructure without discrimination."

Dr. Lee Boon Yang, Singapore's Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, said: "Singapore's small size makes the eventual operating company a natural monopoly. Structural separation will ensure fair competition and that we get the best value for the government's money."

Khoong said the government is prepared to grant up to S$750 million (US$520 million) for the project, leaving the remaining cost for the winning bidder to determine and fund.

Today's announcement follows a pre-qualification exercise in which 12 companies and consortia were selected. These organizations will be required to resubmit their bids for the tender, if they wish to be considered for the NGN project.

And while the 12 were picked in the pre-qualification exercise, the request-for-proposal remains open to companies outside this list. New bidders will have the next 21 days to seek qualification, which is required for a company or consortium to submit a bid for the tender. Newly-qualified bidders, if any, will then have another 40 days to submit their proposals, according to the IDA.

The winning bid is expected to be awarded in the third quarter of 2008.

Said Dr. Lee, the "network company" will be evaluated on criteria such as the attractiveness of its network wholesale pricing, quality of network design and coverage, and how much of the allocated government grant will be required for the project.

Local carrier, StarHub, has expressed interest in bidding for the first phase. Said Jeannie Ong, StarHub's head of corporate communications and investor relations: "The RFP is very much in line with what we had expected, and we will be preparing a proposal to meet the needs of the RFP."

Fellow operator, SingTel, also released a statement today expressing interest in the project. SingTel was amongst the 12 pre-qualified bidders.

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