Singapore outlines broadband ambitions

The island-state's national broadband network will provide blazing-speed wired and wireless Net access by as early as 2008.
Written by Aaron Tan, Contributor

SINGAPORE--The island-state has unveiled plans for its new national broadband network (NBN), touting access speeds beyond 1 gigabit per second.

According to Singapore's industry regulator, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), the NBN promises blazing-speed Internet connectivity for business, schools and homes.

The authority said it will consider all technologies that can offer broadband access speeds beyond 1Gbps, or 500 times the common access speed of 2Mbps. Some countries deploying such networks use optical fiber technology, which transmit data using light signals through fibers made of glass.

According to IDA, the deployment of the NBN will be undertaken by a private sector developer, which will also own and operate the network. Also, during the initial years of deployment, access speeds may be lower than 1Gbps, but are expected to increase as demand for bandwidth rises in future, IDA said.

The IDA will award the NBN project to a private sector developer through a tender process. The winner of the tender, to be finalized by early 2007, is required to roll out at least 50 percent of the network within three years, and complete the project within five years.

To ensure that broadband services are affordable and sustainable in the longer term, IDA said the Singapore government is prepared to provide "some funding" to kick-start the project. It did not say how much money the government would inject into the network.

In addition, wireless connectivity that complements the NBN will be provided in "key catchment areas" within the next two years, IDA said. These include town centers, the central business district and places of interest. The wireless network is expected to be completed by June 2007.

Singapore's new national Internet backbone was announced last month by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his annual Budget speech. He said a national broadband network will plug the country into the global knowledge grid, and stay competitive with other cities.

With the new infrastructure, IDA said, bandwidth-intensive applications such as Internet protocol video telephony and digital media will be possible through the participation of telecoms industry players in Singapore’s enlarged broadband market. They can develop and test new applications and services, and market them to the rest of Asia from Singapore, IDA added.

The authority also highlighted various beneficiaries of the national broadband network. Businesses, for instance, can use the network to allow employees and business partners to stay connected anywhere. Telecommuting will also become a more practical reality.

Students will benefit from a high-speed connection to do their work, which is increasingly focused on multimedia. Healthcare workers can also deliver huge volumes of medical data, such as medical x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging, from a patient to a medical specialist for diagnosis.

In addition, the new initiative will underpin Singapore's national grid computing infrastructure, said IDA.

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