S'pore unveils new services in ICT roadmap

update Singapore minister announces launch of several IT platforms and services such as the SGIX and National Authentication Framework, as part of local government's iN2015 masterplan.

update COMMUNICASIA, SINGAPORE--The local infocomms and technology sector received a boost with the launch of several innovative e-services, as part of the government's goal to bridge social gaps and deliver services effectively.

Lui Tuck Yew, Singapore's acting minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, announced during his opening address at the imbX 2010 tradeshow here Tuesday, the launch of services and IT platforms such as the Singapore Internet Exchange (SGIX) and National Authentication Framework (NAF). Held annually, imbX is one of Asia's biggest ICT shows encompassing CommunicAsia, BroadcastAsia, EnterpriseIT and InteractiveDME.

The SGIX, for example, is a platform that will allow different telco service providers to share information between their consumer and business subscribers, said Lui. The two operational nodes of the platform is expected to exchange up to 50 percent of local Internet traffic between its members, he added.

Impact of S'pore's iN2015 masterplan

Minister Lui Tuck Yew also revealed other ICT developments in the Republic.

•  Utilizing the nation's TradeXchange platform, four consortia involving 22 companies will integrate key operational and business processes in marine cargo insurance, freight management and trade financing. The minister stated that by end-2011, more than 100 companies in the trade and logistics sector and about 20 percent of the 4 million annual export shipments will stand to benefit from the TradeXchange platform.

•  In the mobile services ecosystem, IDA and six companies will jointly invest S$10 million (US$7.2 million) over the next two years in the Digital Concierge program. Efforts here will be aimed at developing a set of common mobile shared services and tools for all industry players to develop transactional, location-based and mobile commerce services, said Lui.

•  MediaCorp, StarHub and SingTel are the key partners in the launch of Singapore's first nationwide 3D TV trial, revealed the minister. The companies will be testing transmission signals and addressing technical challenges on various platforms including terrestrial TV, cable TV and Internet Protocol (IP) TV for one year, starting Tuesday, he added.

"I am encouraged to note that 15 companies, including major Internet providers such as SingTel, PacNet and Nucleus Connect, have signed on to SGIX," Lui said.

The minister further stated that the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), with collaboration with "key sectoral regulators", has established the NAF. First announced in 2005, the security framework seeks to provide strong authentication for online transactions between the government, private sector and citizens.

Lui said the IDA will set up a wholly-owned subsidiary to own the infrastructure and provide a secure and cost-effective common platform for online transactions.

He also revealed that the deployment of the nation's next-generation national broadband network (NBN) is "on track" to reach 60 percent of households by end-2010, with full nationwide coverage expected by mid-2012. The NBN is the "cornerstone" of the government's iN2015 masterplan, which was launched in 2006 to make ICT more accessible and pervasive to all Singaporeans, he added.

The merits of the country's NBN were further scrutinized at a separate panel discussion held later at the tradeshow.

Noting that the high-speed NBN will "differentiate" Singapore, StarHub CEO Neil Montefiore said the local operator will be looking to bring its services to corporate businesses, a segment he regards as StarHub's "biggest opportunity".

Should Web access fee be determined by content?
Montefiore, who participated in the panel discussion, also predicted that the industry is headed toward pricing-based model for application access, where users will pay, for example, S$3 a month to access YouTube video clips for a month.

However, Skype CEO Josh Silverman, who was also a panelist, disagreed.

The head of the Internet telephony company argued that access providers should not be charging consumers based on content. Instead, telcos such as StarHub should charge for the Web access and let users choose the apps they would like to consume, he added.

Gene Reznik, Accenture's global managing director for Accenture's communications industry group, told ZDNet Asia at the sidelines after the panel that he concurs with Skype's Silverman on this point.

"I believe that telcos should make use of usage-based pricing to better recover their costs of setting up the broadband infrastructure," Reznik said. "A content-based Web access pricing scheme is quite difficult to implement."

He also noted that video, particularly high-definition (HD) video streaming, will soon be the dominant application as it benefits from faster, higher bandwidth networks.

"With more Web-enabled televisions coming, and different form factors supporting HD video, I think there will be an explosion in Internet growth," he said.

Reznik added that this move to video applications is "happening now", which is why telcos are freeing up their bandwidth usually reserved for phone calls to accommodate video streaming.


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