SingTel expands IT services footprint

Singapore telco sets up new center to showcase industry-centric IT services, marking a deeper focus on its non-telecoms business.
Written by Aaron Tan, Contributor

SINGAPORE--In an effort to expand beyond the telecoms market, local telco SingTel has established a new facility to provide industry-specific IT services.

Located at SingTel's corporate headquarters here, the S$1 million (US$627,000) Business Solutions Center (BSC) gives businesses a glimpse of IT applications and communication services tailored for the financial services, healthcare and logistics industries.

"Because of the convergence of IT and telecommunications, infocomm is [now] a huge area that SingTel has been moving into," said Bill Chang, executive vice president of SingTel's business group, speaking to reporters during BSC's opening last week.

As the telecoms market matures, many traditional telcos have started to pursue new growth opportunities in enterprise IT services. Germany's T-Systems, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, British Telecom, Australia's Telstra and Hong Kong's PCCW, all currently provide some form of IT management services.

Analyst house Gartner expects the global IT services markets for carrier and enterprise networks to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.6 percent from 2004 through 2008.

SingTel's revenues from IT and engineering services have been growing gradually. During SingTel's last fiscal year ended Mar. 31, 2006, that segment contributed 7 percent to total revenues, up from 6 percent in the previous year.

While most of the offerings showcased at SingTel's new center make use of the company's communications networks and data centers, the industry-specific applications were developed in tandem with IT service providers such as Frontline Technologies, Hewlett-Packard and SingTel-subsidiary NCS.

A SingTel spokesperson told ZDNet Asia that access to the BSC is free for businesses, which can also test their existing IT equipment and applications at the center to evaluate how well they work with SingTel's services.

Chang said that while SingTel has been offering some of the showcased services for some time, the company is now doing so by zooming in on industry-specific products and services. In addition, SingTel is also venturing into new markets such as healthcare, he said.

Recently, Singapore's Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) earmarked S$15 million (US$9.4 million) for a centralized IT system to manage patient records of general practitioners (GPs) in the island-state.

Chang said: "We're working with some SIs (systems integrators) in Singapore to provide clinical management services, and we are looking at how SingTel's broadband services can help."

Apart from GPs, SingTel is also targeting hospitals with its Picture Archiving and Communication System that allows large X-ray images to be transmitted, and archived to SingTel's Expan data centers. SingTel's Traffic Optimization Profiling Service (TOPs) will also work in the background to improve network efficiency and capacity by prioritizing network traffic during the archival process, he said.

Chang was unable to reveal if the company has signed up local hospitals for its healthcare-related IT services. "We're now seeking customer clearance for the managed services and big contracts that we won in some of these industries," he said.

In the logistics space, SingTel also showed off a service that lets businesses manage their fleet using an application developed by local software house, agis. Called NavFone, the application uses SingTel's cellular network to pinpoint the location of delivery vehicles. Logistics companies can also alert their customers minutes, prior to the goods' arrival.

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