SingTel starts home fiber trials

Southeast Asia's largest telco begins fiber-to-the-home trials in Singapore to meet emerging demand for bandwidth-hungry applications.

SINGAPORE--SingTel is starting fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) trials at two private housing developments in the island-state as a test bed for advanced broadband applications.

The move marks Singapore's ambition to establish a next generation broadband network that offers broadband access speeds beyond 1Gbps (gigabits per second), or 500 times the common access speed of 2Mbps (megabits per second). Countries that have already deployed such networks, including Japan and South Korea, typically use FTTH, an optical fiber technology that transmits data using light signals through glass fibers.

Conducted over a six-month period, the trials will allow SingTel to offer broadband speeds of up to 80Mbps for advanced voice, video and data services, SingTel said in a statement Monday.

The telecoms service provider has also roped in France's Alcatel to provide the equipment and support during the trials.

According to a company spokesperson, commercial services will be available at a later date once SingTel has conducted a review of the trials.

Residents of the 80-unit Leonie Hills Residences started their FTTH trial last weekend, while those from the 756-unit The Gardens at Bishan condominium will be able to test the technology from Aug. 10 this year.

Hui Weng Cheong, SingTel's vice president for consumer products, said: "With speeds of up to 80Mbps, trial participants will be able to watch video-on-demand, play games with low latency, download large music and video files more quickly, and make video calls. "We look forward to receiving their feedback on the user experience and the services offered over these new technology platforms," Hui added.

Together with the 80Mbps broadband access package, SingTel is also bundling applications and value-added services to residents who sign up for the trial. These include on-demand full-length movies and videos of Real SuperPass (Asia-Pacific edition), online gaming, video calls, as well as high-speed 2Mbps wireless hotspot access.

Hui said: "We remain committed to meeting our customers' need for speed and being responsive to market interest in emerging high-speed broadband technologies. As such, SingTel has been actively developing technology platforms other than ADSL (asymmetrical digital subscriber line) for residential consumers.

Is there a real need for speed?
In an earlier report, industry experts however argue that many current Internet users don't even come close to using all the bandwidth that's offered to them in a standard broadband service. This is because multimedia applications such as music streaming consume only a fraction of the available bandwidth.

Foong King Yew, ICT (infocomm technology) practice program director at Frost & Sullivan Asia-Pacific, noted that FFTH is most viable in densely populated countries. "That's why you see FTTH taking off in Japan and South Korea," he told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview, adding that the technology has the potential to thrive in Hong Kong and Singapore, too.

According to global market research and consulting firm Dittberner, FTTH deployments surpassed ADSL in Japan--the only market in the world where which this trend occurred. Japan added 2.2 million FTTH subscribers in 2005, comprising 80 percent of the global FTTH market. Currently, half of Japanese households have fiber connections.