Singapore Unveils Digital Hub Vision
The island state's information society leaders believe Singapore has the potential to be a regional hub for digital media hosting and service delivery in Southeast Asia, and that the country's plan to build a new, next-generation network can help it achieve this goal.
Speaking here at the CommunicAsia show Tuesday morning, Thomas Lim, a director at the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) , said the island state's iN2015 strategy, which includes the rollout of a nationwide fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network, will help establish Singapore as "a digital media and entertainment capital" that can host and deliver "innovative content and services to the world." (See Singapore Shortlists FTTH Firms and Singapore Extends Monster NGN Tender.)
And the move has the full backing of the Singaporean government. In opening the CommunicAsia event here Tuesday morning, Dr. Lee Boon Yang, the minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, announced the launch of the "Digital Marketplace" program "to develop a trusted and conducive environment for digital media businesses to hub, manage, distribute and trade digital media assets such as movies, video programmes, music and mobile content through and from Singapore."
In a world where digital content is a key factor in the data revenue growth of fixed and mobile operators, as well as online service players such as Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO), and the online gaming community, that's quite a play.
The IDA and government are banking on the deployment of their next generation network, the rollout of massive storage capabilities, and the development of a "secure and trusted environment," with state-of-the-art authentication and other security procedures, to build on the trust it has already established as a regional finance center.
But becoming a regional digital hub takes more than developing in-country capabilities -- it also requires top quality international connectivity too. So does Singapore have the capacity and redundancy to put content owners' and service providers' minds at rest, especially as Singapore was one of the markets affected by the earthquake disruption of 18 months ago? (See Quake Shakes IP Transit Market and Quake Disrupts StarHub Service.)
The IDA's assistant CEO Khoong Hock Yun is adamant that Singapore is now well covered in terms of its international links. Responding to questions from Light Reading, he said Singapore has 28 Tbit/s of international capacity available, of which only 1 Tbit/s is lit. He also noted that Singapore has "plenty of direct connections to markets such as Japan, Korea, and India, so there is very little latency."
As for redundancy, he said that while there is always room for more, "we have many different routes available," before adding that the IDA is looking to develop a greater number of exchanges within Singapore as part of the new physical network rollout.
NGN progress report
So what of the island's NGN, which could cost up to $2 billion to build? With the island's [email protected] public WiFi initiative already up and running (7,200 hotspots in high-density areas), the IDA today gave a progress update on the three-tiered fixed broadband strategy that includes: a "NetCo," to design, build, and operate the passive infrastructure; an "OpCo," to deploy network infrastructure (routers, switches) and act as a wholesaler of broadband capacity that will deliver up to 1 Gbit/s access to Singapore's businesses and homes; and multiple retail service providers that will all use the same underlying physical infrastructure.
The IDA said that two consortia, Infinity and OpenNet, are being considered for the NetCo role. The Infinity consortium comprises Hong Kong's City Telecom (HK) Ltd. , plus Singapore carriers StarHub and MobileOne Ltd. (M1) (Singapore: MONE). The OpenNet group, meanwhile, is led by Singapore's incumbent national operator, Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY). (See Infinity Makes FTTH Bid and SingTel Forms FTTH Bid Group.)
The award of the NetCo contract is due to be announced in the third quarter of this year.
Submissions are still being taken for the OpCo role, with a deadline of Aug. 20, 2008. The IDA has already drawn up a shortlist of 11 companies that will be considered -- see this news analysis article for the runners and riders.
The IDA expects to name the victorious OpCo during the first quarter of 2009.
In the meantime, the IDA plans to make life easier for Singapore's small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), multinationals, and government bodies by enabling what it calls the National Grid Pilot Platform. This grid will provide a large, stable infrastructure based on existing resources that can be used by all sorts of users for computing, storage, and software-as-a-service capabilities on a pay-per-use basis.
The IDA believes this initiative will particularly help SMBs, as it means they won't have to invest large sums in servers and other IT resources they can't afford. The services should be available by the end of 2008 as the IDA has chosen three local IT consortia to provide the necessary IT infrastructure that can be shared by Singapore's business users.
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading