Singapore's government is to partly fund the construction of a nationwide broadband network that, once built, could be used by any operator to deliver services to the country's 4.5 million residents. (See Singapore Issues RFP.)
The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) has issued an expanded request for proposals (RFP) inviting any company or consortium to bid for the right to build a network that, by 2015, will provide "pervasive and competitively priced ultra high-speed broadband connectivity [1 Gbit/s or more] to business users at the workplace as well as to Singaporeans at home, schools and learning institutions and other premises."
The IDA pre-qualified 12 bidders for the network deal and has been consulting them to establish the fine detail of the RFP that's now available to all comers. Among those 12 are incumbent operator Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel); local cable operator StarHub Pte. Ltd.; Siemens Communications, now part of Nokia Siemens Networks; and Japan's NTT West Corp., all of which submitted single company bids, even though some have sourced technology partners. (See StarHub Goes Out-of-Band With Vyyo.)
The remaining pre-qualified bidders are all consortia, including teams in which Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco Systems Inc., Ericsson AB, BT Group plc, Tech Mahindra, Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd., T-Systems Inc., Hong Kong Broadband Network Ltd. (HKBN), and MobileOne Ltd. (M1) are involved.
To help attract more bidders, the country's government will provide a grant of up to 750 million Singaporean dollars (US$520 million) to the "NetCo," which will "design, build and operate" the "passive infrastructure."
The government will then choose an "Operating Company" to deploy network infrastructure (routers, switches) and act as a wholesaler of broadband capacity, which will then be sold to multiple retail service providers.
That three-layered model -- network, operations, services -- is similar to Amsterdam's municipal network rollout, notes Heavy Reading chief analyst Graham Finnie, who finds the project "really interesting." (See Amsterdam Fires Up Muni Broadband.)
"Talk about this project has been around for a while, and the open access enthusiasts are very excited about it. That's because the momentum behind the open network model has largely been in Northern Europe so far, in the Netherlands and Scandinavia, but this is a large project in a different part of the world -- it validates the model," says Finnie.
Finnie notes that Singapore, with its high population density, is ideal for a fiber-to-the-home rollout. He estimates that the total cost of building the network could be as high as US$2 billion.
Given the size of the project, and the attention it will likely attract, Finnie believes the vendor community, especially companies such as Cisco and PacketFront AB, which are already supplying infrastructure for European open network projects, will "go hell for leather to be involved with this." (See Amsterdam Gets Active With FTTH and PacketFront Touts FTTH Success.)
The analyst expects all the major infrastructure vendors to be keen on the Singapore project, and expects AlcaLu to propose GPON as the access technology of choice.
Active Ethernet, where each customer is linked to a dedicated fiber connection, has been the technology approach of choice so far for such networks, says Finnie, but "Alcatel-Lucent is trying to promote GPON as an open access alternative." (See Bright Prospects for GPON and CitĂ©Vision Uses AlcaLu GPON .)
The RFP closes on March 25, 2008, after which the IDA will evaluate the submissions.
Singapore's residents won't have to wait until 2015 to benefit from the new network, though, as the IDA expects services such as "high-definition video conferencing, telemedicine, grid computing-on-demand, security, and immersive learning applications" to be made available from 2010 onwards.
The new network build is part of Singapore's Next Generation National Infocomm Infrastructure (NGNII), which includes a nationwide WiFi rollout of 6,000 hotspots that began in December 2006.
â€” Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading