Singapore's fiber hiccups

Krishna Baidya/Frost & Sullivan
25 Jun 2012

Singapore's next-generation national broadband network (NG-NBN), initiated in 2006 by IDA and with government funding of S$1 billion, has recently been attracting headlines - for all the wrong reasons.

The fiber rollout is reportedly on target to reach 95% of homes and businesses by the middle of the year. According to OpenNet's figures, an average of more than 10,000 broadband users have been signing up per month for the past year. However, for many consumers migrating to fiber has been far from smooth with delays - in some cases up to six weeks - to access the network after they sign up with ISPs.

Since the launch in September 2010, the network has 133,000 active fiber subscribers, about one in 10 households. Issues relating to the rollout including a lack of "push" factors, and little demand for very high speeds seem to hamper uptake. Competitive pricing from ISPs, especially the ones not having to worry about cannibalizing their previous broadband services, along with compelling and relevant services are likely to be catalyst for demand.

According to Fiber Index survey commissioned by OpenNet, 77% of respondents were aware of optical fiber broadband in July 2011, up from 41% in April 2010. Such awareness, attributed to increased marketing from the service providers and growth in fiber network coverage area, is starting to drive demand. However, the survey also pointed out the need to better communicate the benefits of fiber broadband to encourage adoption. At the same time, the importance of relevant content and applications to drive adoption can't be ignored.

Considering the scale, the NG NBN implementation has had its own challenges and it's not surprising to see many issues cropping up. OpenNet had pledged to connect up to 2,050 new subscribers a week and turn them on within three days in its service contract approved by the IDA. Among other things, complaints about the excessive waiting time for activation of fiber services, unsatisfactory response to increasing demand, inflexible service offerings, delays in installations in commercial buildings and unreasonable pricing have put OpenNet under pressure, straining some relationships and prompting a lot of finger pointing.

Numerous complaints have prompted IDA to ask OpenNet to raise its installation capacity further to 2,500 per week from its current capacity of 2,400 per week. In view of the operational issues in the roll out, IDA announced it will make an early review of the interconnect offer (ICO) of OpenNet which otherwise is due only in April 2013.

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