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StarHub wins Singapore OpCo role

Singapore government appoints StarHub as "operating company" to provide wholesale broadband connectivity for country's planned next-generation national broadband network.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

SINGAPORE--StarHub has won the role of "operating company" (OpCo) for Singapore's planned next-generation national broadband network (NBN).

The country's ICT regulator Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) announced Friday it appointed StarHub as the OpCo, responsible for designing, building and operating the NBN's "active infrastructure".

The "active infrastructure" will enable the OpCo to provide wholesale broadband connectivity to downstream operators such as retail service providers (RSPs), that will then package and sell broadband services to end-users.

This is the second layer above the basic fiber infrastructure, which will be built by a separate "network company" (NetCo), led by the OpenNet consortium. Appointed in September last year, the consortium comprises Canada-based Axia and three local companies, SingTel, Singapore Press Holdings and SP Telecommunications.

Today's announcement comes a year after the IDA opened up the tender for the OpCo role in April 2008.

StarHub will establish a wholly-owned subsidiary, called Nucleus Connect, to manage the project. This new entity will work with OpenNet on a "coordinated nationwide rollout of the network", according to the IDA.

The OpCo is also expected to start offering commercial services by the first half of 2010, and be ready to meet "all reasonable requests for service from 2013", the regulator said.

StarHub said in a statement to the media: "Singaporeans can expect to have ultra-high broadband connectivity of up to 1Gbps in 95 percent of homes and offices by June 2012."

The carrier will invest an estimated S$100 million (US$66 million) in Nucleus Connect, which in turn will spend some S$1 billion (US$664 million) over the period of its 25-year license.

According to StarHub, Nucleus Connect will be set up within the year to meet the IDA's operational separation requirements. The IDA has mandated the OpCo to be operationally separate from downstream operators to ensure downstream players have non-discriminatory access to wholesale connectivity.

StarHub was in contention with three other players for the OpCo role: the IntelliNet consortium--made up of Axia NetMedia and Cisco Systems--MobileOne (M1) and SingTel.

Responding to the IDA's decision, M1's acting CEO Karen Kooi said in a media statement: "Having invested resources into the submission of our proposal for the OpCo, we are obviously disappointed with this outcome. Nevertheless, M1's plan to be an RSP remains on track, and we look forward to working closely with the appointed OpCo."

M1 said in January this year its decision to roll out fixed broadband, mobile TV and IPTV services, was aimed at preparing the company for the OpCo role.

Together with StarHub and Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), M1 was also in an earlier bid for the NetCo role.

The IDA Chairman Yong Ying-I said in a statement: "The next-gen NBN is a key national infocomm infrastructure that will enhance Singapore's competitiveness in a globalized and digital economy. It will spur the development of rich and innovative content, applications and services, and bring significant benefits to the various economic sectors such as finance, healthcare and education."

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