How to build an NBN

How to build an NBN

John C. Tanner
Telecom Asia

Most Innovative Telecom Product

Singapore NBN - OpenNet and Nucleus Connect

Last year's winner:First year
Companies:OpenNet (SingTel, Singapore Press Holdings, SP Telecommunications and Axia NetMedia), Nucleus Connect (StarHub)

Description: A nationwide fiber broadband network comprising three structurally separated layers: the Network Company (NetCo), OpenNet, is responsible for the design, build and operation of the passive infrastructure layer; the Operating Company (OpCo) Nucleus Connect, provides wholesale broadband connectivity to other operating companies and downstream operators; and Retail Service Providers (RSPs) that provide broadband services and solutions to residential or enterprise customers

Khoo Chin Hean, CEO of OpenNetThe move by various governments to develop national broadband network projects to make fiber-speed connections ubiquitous (or as near as) has been one of the most controversial activities in the telecom sector both in terms of plausibility and expense. But Singapore's NBN - masterminded by the Infocomm Development Authority and executed by joint venture OpenNet and StarHub subsidiary Nucleus Connect - has proven to be a master class on how to get it done.

The actual set-up - creating three structurally separated layers - was innovation in itself, says OpenNet CEO Khoo Chin Hean. "The innovation lies in the government's decision to implement the NBN," Khoo says. "This is a very important investment for the future."

Nucleus Connect chief David Storrie says one of the most important innovations of the NBN is its flexible wholesale packaging. "RSPs enjoy the unique flexibility to choose which bandwidth and network QoS to subscribe to," he says. "For instance, a single service ISP can simply subscribe to the basic 100-Mbps service with associated QoS, while a multi-service provider can choose to take on the basic service, and add on any additional bandwidth required."

Storrie says that Nucleus Connect has seven RSPs signed on to date and is in talks with several other interested parties. 

Naturally, none of this is to say that the NBN has been easy to set up. Storrie says there have been some initial technological teething issues for Nucleus Connect.

"For example, the implementation of different QoS services in an open access network requires proper traffic marking to ensure a smooth end-to-end delivery of the service," he explains. "And, the user may have high expectations of the fiber broadband service without understanding that in some instances, the speed throughput is limited by remote sites."

For OpenNet, says Khoo, the biggest challenge has been the sheer scale of the infrastructure rollout. "There had been 790,000 installation works since September 2009, which amounts to about 1,600 installations each day," he says. "Part of these works are done in homes of customers, and the potential for things to go wrong was very high. To the credit of our staff and partners, the number of problems was kept to about 0.4%."

Looking ahead to 2011, says Khoo, "OpenNet achieved 60% coverage of Singapore in 2010, and our goal for 2011 is to achieve 85% coverage."

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