S'pore to build new broadband network

Move aimed at staying ahead of the technological curve and developing a network that provides faster, efficient connectivity.

SINGAPORE--Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced Friday plans to build a new national broadband network aimed at ensuring the island-state keeps pace with rapid technological change.

In his Budget 2006 speech, Lee said: "Other countries and cities are already implementing ultra-high speed broadband and wireless networks. Some are laying fibre to homes, in anticipation of future demand.

"In today's world, a national broadband network is basic infrastructure and a source of competitive advantage. We will develop a new national broadband network that is much faster than what is available today. It will offer fast, efficient connectivity to all--in schools, in offices and homes, and even on the move," Lee noted.

Emphasizing the importance of adapting to today's global business environment, Lee added: "It will help us plug into the global knowledge grid, and stay competitive with other cities. The cost is significant, but we can develop it together with the private sector progressively over several years, adjusting to demand at each stage."

As part of Singapore's continued plan to remake the economy, Lee identified innovation, enterprise and R&D as key sources of future growth for the island-state. The government will inject S$500 million (US$305 million) into a newly setup R&D Trust Fund, targeted to reach S$5 billion (US$3.05 billion) over five years.

Singapore also aims to be a knowledge hub in Asia. "To become a knowledge hub, we must not only be a place for creating knowledge, but also be a center for exchanging knowledge and ideas, and for people and businesses to network with one another," said Lee.

Singapore, he said, is well suited for this role. "As a society, our ethos is open, cosmopolitan and pragmatic, welcoming towards new ideas, and quick at adapting to a fast changing world. We are well wired up, with 52 percent of homes having broadband Internet access, and nationwide wireless networks to keep us constantly in touch with one another and the world. But we must continue to plan ahead beyond present needs, and keep pace with rapid technological change."

Commenting on the government's move, Craig Gledhill, Cisco Systems' managing director for Singapore and Brunei, said: "The announcement is a great move, and once again shows the foresight of the Singapore government.

"In the 1990s, with SingaporeONE, the Singapore government pioneered a national communications network that was among the most advanced in the world. This network linked every school, government agency, home and industry in the country using a high-speed broadband network.

"Now, the new national broadband network will catalyze this transformation, leapfrogging the nation into the next quantum of ICT adoption," Gledhill added.