Singapore National Broadband (NGNBN) Project Marred by Troubles

“It is a total and absolute diaster here. And there is no end in sights. I have been calling StarHub for weeks and I’m getting nowhere.” – Mr Robin Enlund, the Asia Pacific MD of AMX. The computer servers at International Business Park in Jurong has been cut off from the internet since Jul 26, as it had terminated its broadband contract with Singtel.

“SingTel’s role as OpenNet’s key subcontractor to build and activate the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (NGNBN) was questioned again yesterday, this time by rival telcos. Expressing a sentiment shared by other Internet Service Providers (ISPs), StarHub head of corporate communications & investor relations Jeannie Ong said: “It is interesting to note that SingTel, as OpenNet’s key subcontractor, may be in a position of commercial conflict.”Todayonline

“OpenNet is the sole network company that provides passive fibre cables to all OpCos…..By design, after the fibre roll-out, the ISPs maintain the relationship and contact with homeowners.” - OpenNet


In the Aug 20, 2011 The Straits Times’ report titled “OpenNet urged to give firm dates“, it was reported that the Next-Gen National Broadband Network (NGNBN) project was plagued with delays and uncertainty over the activation of the the fiber connections and how some irate customers were waiting two or three weeks to get connected to the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network. Some were even forced to hang on for up to six weeks. Nucleus Connect, which sells the new fibre optics broadband to service providers, said more than 70% of its business customers had suffered installation delays involving OpenNet during the first six months of the year.

But the more troubling statement is “many of the SingTel’s fibre broadband corporate customers have been spared service delivery uncertainties because Singtel has its own fibre network.” So the relevant questions are:

– why create a national broadband which essentially funded by taxpayers’ money in the billions when there is a rival superfast network? The best part is Singtel is also part owner of OpenNet, wouldn’t there be conflict of interest? (OpenNet is owned by Singtel, SP Telecommunications, Axia NetMedia and SPH)

– Why is IDA, the industry regulator, stays largely silent and not anticipating the potential hiccups and just let the companies air out their grievance in public?

– The super broadband has been positioned for the future, but where are the applications? Remember the Magix days when Singapore was the early adopters of early day’s broadband technology? Many customers was plagued with unreliable and slow internet connections and later had to junk their outdated modems when ADSL and Cable modems became worldwide standards. As for the industry development angle, today Singapore lags many advance economies such as Hong Kong and Korea in terms of broadband speeds and we are yet to create a local internet giant in the process, we are merely clever users just like everybody else.

Sometimes it is better to be follower, as Albert Einstein once said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

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