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OpenNet looks to up installation, amid lawsuit against S'pore govt

Consortium tasked to build Singapore's national broadband network to add installation slots to cope with demand, following complaints over waiting time and amid "quashing order" case against government.
Written by Ryan Huang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--OpenNet has unveiled plans to increase its weekly quota for activating connections on the national fiber network amid a string of customer complaints over installation delays. Earlier this week, it filed a lawsuit against local authorities in a bid to secure a "squashing order".  

A spokesperson for OpenNet told ZDNet Asia it was working with its key subcontractor to implement "another increase" to its normal delivery capacity. "We hope to make an announcement in this regard in the near future," she said. The consortium was appointed as the network company (NetCo) responsible for building the fiber infrastructure of the next-generation national broadband network (NBN).

Under its service contract, OpenNet is obliged to activate connections for residential and business orders within 3 and 10 business days, respectively. However, it was unable to cope with the demand and this had led to numerous complaints, with some cases reportedly involving waiting times of 4 to 6 months.

OpenNet noted that with the additional capacity currently in place, the waiting time for an OpCo--the operating company that provides wholesale network services to retail service providers (RSPs) delivering on the NBN--to enable the delivery of fiber services is approximately two weeks after OpenNet receives an installation request from the OpCo.

OpenNet had previously increased its delivery capacity from 2,050 to 2,400 connections in August 2011. The spokesperson said the company subsequently added 1,150 installation slots a week "on a promotion basis" to facilitate a total of 3,550 installation slots. "This promotion-based capacity is intended to address demand spikes that occur around the quarterly IT shows. The current promotional additional capacity will extend into early-May 2012," she added.

The major quarterly IT fairs had been a key reason for the backlog, according to a Nucleus Connect spokesperson, one of the OpCos for the NBN. "Typically, RSPs and end-users feel the frustration of the long waiting time during the periods of the major quarterly IT Fairs and for the weeks after that as the effect rolls over."

"For example, on the last day of the recent IT Show [which ended Mar. 11], the earliest slot available for OpenNet's installation was on Mar. 30, 2012--15 working days as compared to the stipulated delivery requirement of three working days," the spokesperson told ZDNet Asia. "A month after the IT Show, even today, this situation has hardly improved. The current earliest available installation date is 11 working days away."

Foong King Yew, research vice president for Gartner's communications service provider strategy group, pointed out that OpenNet was constrained by some factors out of its control. "One of the issues is that information on market demand is not reaching OpenNet in a timely fashion.

"There has been instances where the RSPs' promotions were launched without the advanced knowledge of OpenNet. As such, it is difficult for it to match supply and demand," Foong  added.

OpenNet pointed out that it also faced constraints in scaling up capacity. "The addition of delivery capacity takes some time to allow our installation subcontractors to staff and train appropriately," the spokesperson added, while noting that its available capacity was not always fully utilized.

"In some points over the past four months, the additional capacity introduced has not been fully utilized. OpenNet is still trying to find the right balance between providing adequate capacity and avoiding wastage," she said.

Singapore's ICT regulator, Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), on Feb. 27 said it found it "necessary to conduct a review" of OpenNet's service after "operational issues" surfaced regarding the implementation of the NBN. It added that some of these "concerned the NetCo layer, such as more timely provisioning of services to end-users".

The regulator said: "Under section 10 of the Code of Practice for NBN NetCo Interconnection, IDA is empowered to review and require OpenNet to modify the terms and conditions of the Interconnection Offer at any appropriate time."

OpenNet sues Singapore government
The NetCo earlier this week initiated a lawsuit against the the government in a bid to secure a "quashing order" from the Supreme Court, according to a report by news daily The Straits Times.

A quashing order is part of a judiciary review which is usually sought to nullify a decision or directive made by an authority, and typically initiated when the authority is alleged to have acted outside the scope of its powers.

As the court documents outlining the lawsuit are sealed, the identity of the government agency named in the suit is unknown.

When contacted, IDA declined to comment on the lawsuit.

OpenNet also told ZDNet Asia it was unable to provide further details regarding the lawsuit "as the matter is before the courts".

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