Complete Property Market Updates of Singapore

June 21, 2008

HDB ‘lab’ paving the way for broadband vision

Filed under: General,HBD Reviews,Regulators — Propertymarketupdates @ 7:13 pm

Government agencies linked up in low-key tests to study disruption

SOMETIME in the near future in a HDB heartland, housewives will be able to download an entire Korean movie in mere minutes , instead of hours. Researchers at Biopolis – a biomedical science research & development hub – will be able to perform complex calculations previously handled by supercomputers on their laptops.

All thanks to a new fibre optic network that is being built in Singapore.

And four inconspicuous public housing blocks at Boon Keng and Commonwealth may hold the key to realising Singapore’s dream of upgrading to this new ultra-fast broadband highway.

Unknown to the public, the humble housing units collectively formed the centrepiece of a low-key, multi-agency trial to assess any disruption that could result from constructing the new Internet backbone.

BT understands the tests were initiated by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) and that at least two other state agencies – the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) – were roped in.

The upcoming Next-Gen NBN (National Broadband Network) is a key part of the government’s plan to lay a new technology foundation that will serve residents and businesses for the next 25 years or more.

When fully-completed in 2015, the network will deliver blazing access speed of 1 Gbps (gigabit per second) and beyond to power new e-commerce applications and other bandwidth-sapping services like biomedical research and tele-medicine.

The main aim of the tests in Boon Keng and Commonwealth – carried out mostly in the second half of 2007 – was to determine the most efficient way of extending high-speed fibre-optic cables from their current end-points to individual apartment blocks and office buildings. This will complete the so-called ‘last mile’ needed to achieve the huge broadband speed boost.

Singapore already has an extensive underground fibre-optic network in place – owned by companies such as Singapore Telecommunications, StarHub and even SMRT – but it ends some distance from most residential and commercial buildings.

Cheaper copper cables tend to be used thereafter to connect offices and homes to the Internet, but this ‘last-mile’ connection is set to be replaced with fibre-optic links, based on two proposals IDA has received for the new network.

‘IDA worked together with fellow government agencies such as HDB and LTA and the trials involved the testing of innovative civil works techniques for Next-Gen NBN,’ an IDA spokesperson confirmed.

‘The trials were conducted by a contractor appointed by IDA and focused on the outside plant that did not include in-house rewiring. The intent of the trials was to explore innovative deployment techniques that could reduce inconvenience to the public and minimise disruption.’

This is an important consideration for the regulator, which wants to roll out the new network with minimal fuss. When StarHub first built its $600 million infrastructure to deliver cable TV and broadband services, road lane closures were common as laborious excavation was carried out to put the new cables in place.

IDA hopes advances in cabling techniques mean that people will have to put up with fewer disruptions this time around.

To achieve this, approaches that were tested included running cables and ducts through covered walkways and drainage systems rather than digging up roads, according to sources familiar with the project.

The trial results were shared with bidders for the new network. Feedback was positive and they felt that minimal disruption and inconvenience could be achieved, IDA said.

The eventual task of translating the experiments into real-life will rest on the shoulders of the winner of IDA’s recently-concluded Network Company (NetCo) tender.

The battle to land this mammoth contract is now between two consortiums incorporating all three local telcos.

The winning NetCo will be helped by government subsidy of up to $750 million to offset the heavy cost of building the network, which some industry watchers estimate to be $1.5 billion or more.

SingTel has submitted a bid as part of OpenNet, a group led by Canada’s Axia NetMedia, which includes two other members – Singapore Press Holdings and Singapore Power subsidiary SP Telecommunications.

StarHub has joined hands with MobileOne and Hong Kong’s City Telecom to make up the rival Infinity Consortium.

IDA expects to pick the winning Netco by the third quarter of this year.

Source : Business Times – 26 May 2008

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