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S'pore NBN central offices officially launched

update Nucleus Connect opens nine facilities to support Singapore's next-gen broadband network, marking another step toward commercial launch of the 1Gbps fiber network.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

update SINGAPORE--Nucleus Connect today opened its two central office (CO) facilities, housing the company's telecoms exchange equipment, to support the country's next-generation broadband network (NBN).

Located across the island-state, the new sites mark another step toward the commercial launch of the country's 1Gbps (gigabits per second) fiber network.

The COs are located in the North and East of Singapore, and connect to the nine other COs operated by OpenNet, the NBN's network company.

The OpenNet COs are scattered across the island and expected to reach the target of 95 percent coverage by 2012. These nine COs house the dark fiber that will be pulled to residential and commercial buildings. Nucleus Connect's COs will then light up the fiber to support commercial services.

Wholesale prices approved
Nucleus Connect CEO David Storrie said at a press briefing here Thursday that Singapore's regulator, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), has approved the NBN operating company's wholesale interconnection offer (ICO) to retail service providers (RSPs).

Nucleus Connect will provide four classes of service levels to RSPs with corresponding service level agreements (SLAs). RSPs will be able to choose from the different classes, as well as between leasing 100Mbps (megabits per second) or 1Gbps lines.

For the lowest class D service, wholesale prices start at S$21 (US$15) per residential 100Mbps connection or S$75 (US$54) for non-residential buildings. A 1Gbps line will be priced at S$121 (US$87) for residential buildings and S$860 (US$617) for non-residential properties. RSPs have the option to use a single connection to distribute bandwidth between multiple customers in the building.

According to StarHub's Web site, a 100Mbps residential connection costs users S$124 (US$89) a month. SingTel does not offer a 100Mbps service to residential customers.

Storrie said he expects the NBN to offer an alternative to fixed broadband providers such as MobileOne (M1), which currently leases bandwidth from local infrastructure owners, SingTel and StarHub. M1 can get additional bandwidth from Nucleus Connect to serve customers, he suggested, adding that the ICO is expected to drive down overall wholesale prices at which bandwidth is available to broadband providers.

Some analysts agree that the eventual price of bandwidth to consumers will likely go down as a result of the NBN, but to a minimal extent. In a previous interview, Springboard analyst Bryan Wang said RSPs lack the broad portfolios of incumbents, thus, preventing them from bundling services to make them attractive to consumers.

StarHub and SingTel currently offer triple-play services encompassing TV, mobile and fixed phone, and broadband services to homes. M1 offers mobile phone and fixed broadband services.

Interest from retail service providers
With today's launch, Nucleus Connect is also inviting downstream RSPs to its testing labs within the CO facilities to test applications and services in preparation for commercial rollout to users.

So far, some 20 RSPs have indicated interest but Storrie said more will likely come on board when the NBN has achieved wider coverage. OpenNet is still in the midst of rolling out the physical fiber infrastructure and has targeted to cover 60 percent of buildings by the end of this year. Once it reaches this mark, about 30 RSPs are expected to come in and start testing and offering services, he said.

OpenNet said earlier this week in a press release, the fiber rollout has reached 30 percent coverage.

Not all the RSPs are mass market broadband service providers, he noted. Some are systems integrators such as IBM, looking to trial high-speed broadband for their customers, while others are organizations from various verticals such as government and healthcare bodies, Storrie said.

He pointed to security company, Certis Cisco, as a company that has expressed interest in buying wholesale connections for its alarm systems, which are wired up to customers' premises.

Under the terms and conditions of the ICO, only Qualifying Persons can purchase connections directly from Nucleus Connect. A Qualifying Person (QP), as defined in the ICO, is a party which is a services-based operator, facilities-based operator or broadcasting licensee.

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