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S'pore mulls network auto-switching for uninterrupted mobile access

A nationwide heterogeneous network is one idea being mooted for Singapore's 10-year Infocomm Media Masterplan until 2025, aimed at establishing it as a "smart" nation.
Written by Ryan Huang, Contributor

Plans are being considered to allow mobile customers in Singapore to hop seamlesslessly across different networks such as 3G and Wi-Fi, which will help in the event of an outage or slow access speeds.

The nationwide heterogeneous network (HetNet) was one idea mooted for the country's 10-year Infocomm Media Masterplan until 2025, aimed at establishing it as a "smart" nation. It was revealed in Parliament on Monday by Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, according to the Straits Times.

With a HetNet, operators will be able to achieve better management of traffic in their wireless networks, said Yaacob.

"Users will be able to connect more seamlessly and operate their devices across different wireless networks such as cellular and Wi-Fi. Their devices will also connect to and utilize the best available network in range,"  he added.

If implemented, it will put Singapore among the first in the world to adopt a HetNet at the nationwide level. One country that has already rolled out something similar is The Netherlands, following an outage of operator Vodafone's mobile services in 2012 that affected about a quarter of its five million customers for days, noted Straits Times.

For now, it is an idea being considered for the next Masterplan, where a 14-member committee will release its recommendations later this month. The previous Intelligent Nation 2015 Masterplan focused on boosting adoption of IT among consumers and businesses, while the new Masterplan is aimed at leveraging the growing convergence of the IT and media sectors.

A nationwide HetNet will likely be a welcome boost to the country's telecom's resiliency, especially on the mobile communications front. For telcos, offloading users onto a Wi-Fi hotspot for data access will help reduce the growing strain on their 3G or 4G networks.

A HetNet reality could perhaps pave the way for the possibility of allowing users from rival telcos to share networks in the event of an outage, similar to how overseas auto-roaming might work. This might also potentially open up the opportunity for regulators to explore new penalty mechanisms for telcos beyond traditional fines, such as having them foot the bill for their customers riding on rival networks for the duration of the disruption.

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