Singapore's NBN woes harsh lessons for AU

Tony Brown/Informa Telecoms and Media
02 Dec 2011

In Asia Pacific, only two countries are undertaking nationwide government-backed rollouts of an FTTH-based national broadband network (NBN): Singapore and Australia, markets that could scarcely be more different in terms of geographic size and suitability for ubiquitous FTTH-network deployment.

Since Singapore’s NBN deployment is in a far more advanced stage than the Australian version – which is being deployed by the National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co.) – the Singaporean rollout can offer some indication to NBN Co. of what can be expected on the long road ahead.

In Singapore’s case, the principal problem that OpenNet – the SingTel-led consortium that is responsible for building, managing and operating the Singaporean NBN – is experiencing is the difficulty of gaining access to multiple-dwelling units (MDUs) such as high-rise apartment buildings and other large housing complexes to install FTTH connections, a problem that will be familiar to many other FTTH network operators in the region.

Although Singapore’s NBN has been connected to about three-quarters of the country’s buildings, as of end-June the network had just 40,200 subscriptions, well behind the government’s original expectations.

MDUs cause problems

The principal reason for the slow take-up has been the fact that many building owners have yet to give permission for OpenNet to install last-mile FTTH connections in their buildings, meaning that the country’s NBN retail-service providers are unable to offer services in many buildings.

According to data from the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, as of November 2010 about 90% of management/corporation-strata title (MCST) owners of MDUs contacted by OpenNet had rejected OpenNet’s offer to install FTTH connections in their buildings.

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