Gunning for iN2015: Locked and loaded

Singapore is already exceeding targets set for the year 2015 in its master blueprint to invigorate the nation with IT, according to its industry regulator.

Two years into Singapore's 10-year masterplan for a high-tech nation, the country is already exceeding targets, according to an update from the government.

Officially launched in 2006, Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015) is Singapore's master blueprint to connect the nation and inject its key economic sectors with information and communications technology (ICT) enhancements.

In a report card released by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore in June, household broadband penetration stood at 83.9 percent. One of iN2015's goals is to achieve a 90 percent penetration rate by the year 2015.

The IDA said in an e-mail to ZDNet Asia: "We are encouraged by the growth in broadband penetration rates. More and more people are seeing the need and benefit of high-speed Internet access."

Referring to Singapore's planned next-generation national broadband network (NBN), the IDA said it expects the high-speed network architecture and services riding atop the broadband availability to "catalyze greater innovation" in the country.

The NBN is expected to be available across the island by 2015, touting access speeds exceeding 1Gbps, according to IDA's plan.

Planning and construction of the NBN is underway.

The IDA has separated the deployment of the network in phases, starting with the "network company" (NetCo) that will build the wireline infrastructure.

The IDA has issued a request-for-proposal (RFP) and two consortia--one led by Axia and another by City Telecom--have been pre-qualified and submitted bids.

The government has also called for bids for the next phase, involving the "operating company" (OpCo) that will provide wholesale broadband access built atop the NetCo's infrastructure, to be sold to downstream, customer-facing service providers.

Following a March pre-qualification exercise, the IDA launched the RFP for the OpCo in April.

The IDA has allocated a grant of up to S$250 million (US$179 million) to the winning OpCo, and S$750 million (US$536 million) to the NetCo.

Wireless connectivity
In addition to the NBN, the government launched a wireless broadband initiative at the end of 2006, called Wireless@SG, with a target to plant 5,000 free Wi-Fi hot spots over the island's central areas.

According to the IDA's report card, the target was met by Sep. 2007, and there are currently some 7,200 hot spots serving 850,000 subscribers across the island.

The Wireless@SG initiative enjoys a sign-up rate of 40,000 new subscribers every month, said the IDA, adding that these include both consumers and business users.

"The program has spurred a vibrant wireless broadband market that will support the growth of future wireless broadband services and platforms," said the IDA.

Growing the country's ICT market
Behind the creation of the IDA's intended "pervasive" high-speed network is its goal to have a robust ICT ecosystem riding above this architecture.

One of iN2015's goals is to have ICT export revenues hit S$60 billion (US$43 billion) by 2015. As of 2007, that figure has reached S$33.56 billion (US$24 billion), according to the industry regulator.

The country hopes the growth of its services sector can contribute to this figure.

Singapore's Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, Dr. Lee Boon Yang, said at this year's Infocomm Media Business Exchange (imbX) show broadband has invigorated demand for services including SaaS (Software as a Service) and IPTV.

To that end, the country plans to introduce a grid platform to offer services such as computing, software and storage on a utility basis.

This is expected to appeal to the small and midsize businesses (SMB) segment by helping its companies avoid the burden of upfront capital investment in expensive IT equipment.

Three service-provider consortia led by SCS, NewMedia Express and PTC System respectively, have been appointed to run this grid, expected to go live by the end of this year.

The IDA said the government intends to move some of its services to the infrastructure, generating a whopping 40 percent demand for the new services.