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Singapore telcos get boost with new building mandate

Under revised laws, building owners must provide rent-free areas for deployment of infrastructure such as base stations--a key obstacle often cited by telcos in improving mobile coverage.
Written by Ryan Huang, Contributor on

Singapore has made it mandatory for buildings to provide telcos with rent-free spaces to telcos to deploy infrastructure such as base stations, which could help soon improve network coverage. It will also be compulsory for new homes to be pre-installed with an optical fibre termination point and related cabling for all rooms.

These were part of changes to the Code of Practice for Info-communication Facilities in Buildings (COPIF) announced Thursday by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).

The latest amendmets are aimed at improving mobile and broadband consumer experiences, according to Leong Keng Thai, IDA deputy chief executive and director-general for telecoms and post.

"The changes in this COPIF are to ensure that homes are built for future infocomm needs brought about by developments such as the nationwide deployment of the Next Gen NBN, the increasing mobile penetration rate, and the increasing pervasiveness of smartphones, and other mobile broadband-enabled devices," he said.

Rent-free space for telcos infrastructure

Telcos will have an easier time installing base stations in buildings.

One of the key changes calls for the provision of rent-free Mobile Deployment Space (MDS). Developers and owners of both existing and new buildings will be required to provide space for the deployment of infrastructure, such as base stations, for the enhancement of mobile coverage.

Telcos have often blamed building management resistance in providing space for such equipment and high rentals. Securing such areas can take up to a year due to negotiations and paperwork.

Last December, the country's three telcos--SingTel, StarHub and M1--had in a joint statement blamed obstacles in adding base stations for holding back their efforts to improve mobile coverage. This was in response to a S$10,000 (US$8,911.40) fine each for non-compliance with the Quality of Service (QoS) standards requiring at least 99 percent service coverage outdoors. From the begining of this month, standards have become tighter with the minimum service coverage indoors required to be at least 85 percent.

The new MDS requirements will vary, depending on the size of the developments, or the mobile coverage area of the developments, according to the IDA.

Mobile operators will in turn be expected to invest significantly in deploying more equipment to enhance coverage and provide a better quality of service for the buildings and its surroundings, said the regulator.

Tapping fiber for homes

Another change to the COPIF is the pre-wiring of homes with optical fiber.

New homes will need to be built with an optical fiber termination point pre-installed. In addition, each living room and bedroom within these new homes will be provided with Category 6 cabling capable of carrying data speeds of more than 1 Gbps.

This is aimed at allowing ease of access to the country's nationwide fiber network which reached 95 percent of households in June 2012.
The amendments will be effective from May 1, 2013.

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