Yeo Cheow Tong, Minister for Communications & Information Technology - Opening Address AT&T "Bridging Businesses and 21st Century Networking Technology" Seminar ...
Yeo Cheow Tong, Minister for Communications & Information Technology - Opening Address
AT&T "Bridging Businesses and 21st Century Networking Technology" Seminar
Singapore, 9 November 2001
Mr Yoichiro Yatsurugi (Vice President of AT&T Business, Asia Pacific)
Mr Hock-Lye Choo (General Manager, ASEAN, AT&T Business Services)
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a pleasure to be here this morning to witness the launch of AT&T's Global Network Services Hub in Singapore. This new AT&T investment is another demonstration of AT&T's confidence in Singapore's role as a business hub.
As in the other economic sectors, the infocomm sector has also been badly affected by the global economic slowdown. However, it is not all gloom and doom, as growth in the industry has not come to a complete standstill. Infocomm technology and systems play an important part in the efficient operation of any company. It is a growth enabler, as it helps users connect to their customers and suppliers, improves the efficiency of their internal processes, and enhances productivity. Consequently, medium and long term growth prospects for the infocomm industry remain very bright. As such, infocomm players may be well advised to use this lull period to increase their investments and expand their market reach. The key is to carefully plan their investment commitments.
Infocomm Development in Singapore
Singapore is in a good position to capitalise on these growth opportunities in Asia. We are firmly committed to our goal to make Singapore a key Infocomm Hub in the region, and will continue to lay the necessary groundwork and strengthen our infrastructure.
We liberalised our telecommunications market more than one and a half years ago in order to enhance our competitiveness. The reaction of the infocomm industry has been very positive. Post-liberalisation, we have attracted 30 facilities-based operators (or FBOs) and 552 service-based operators (or SBOs). Among others, we have welcomed to our shores leading global companies such as Sprint, Equant, Worldcom, Deutsche Telecom, and of course, AT&T. In July this year, NTT Communications also established its Internet Data Centre here, which will serve as a gateway to the region.
Besides providing a conducive environment for businesses, we have also put in place a world-class infrastructure for domestic and international communications and transactions. This is to meet the growing demand for content, bandwidth, accessibility and online transactions, locally and in the region. Within Singapore, we have an island-wide broadband infrastructure with multiple access options like ADSL, cable, ATM and in the near future, wireless as well. We are well-connected to the global and regional information infrastructure. There is direct Internet connectivity to more than 30 countries, including Europe and the USA, and at least 45 Megabits per second to the key markets in Asia. Located strategically in Asia, Singapore is also a preferred landing point for submarine cable networks. Here, we expect our submarine cable capacity to rise by 400 times, to 20 terabit per second by the end of this year.
Investment growth and infrastructural development must progress hand in hand with the availability of trained human resources. We have therefore put in place programmes to ensure that the necessary manpower and talent are available to support the demands of the infocomm industry. One scheme is the Infocomm Specialist Manpower programme. This programme will help develop competencies in areas like wireless, telecoms and networking. Another scheme is the Strategic Manpower Conversion programme. This will train and re-skill non-infocomm manpower into infocomm professionals. Since 1996, approximately S$10.5 million has been allocated to fund the upgrading of 7,500 infocomm professionals in critical and emerging skill areas under the Critical Infocomm Technology Resource Programme or CITREP. To accelerate the programme, the Government is making available an additional S$5 million for the next year to fund the upgrading of 3,500 infocomm professionals.
With a liberalised telecommunications market, a world-class infrastructure with extensive international connectivity, and a savvy infocomm workforce to support the development of the infocomm industry, Singapore is positioned to be a leading infocomm Hub for the region.
However, we are not resting on our laurels. This economic downturn will force companies to tighten their belts and look for ways to cut costs. I am happy to announce that, with immediate effect, IDA will also chip in, by reducing the annual license fee payable by individually licensed SBOs by at least 50%. IDA will now collect a flat fee of $5,000 per annum from each SBO (Individual) licensee. The existing fee is pegged at 1% of Annual Gross Turnover, and subject to a minimum fee of $10,000. This fee reduction by IDA will benefit all the 119 individually licensed SBOs operating in Singapore.
I would like to conclude by revisiting PM's remarks back in early September about the Singapore "brand" Straits Times, Sept. 2, 2001, front page pull-out box.. According to Peter Van Ham Van Ham, Peter. The Rise of the Modern Brand State: The Postmodern Politics of Image and Reputation. Foreign Affairs, September/October 2001.
, "branded states comprise the world's ideas about a particular country and depend on the trust and satisfaction they deliver to their publics." In this respect, Singapore delivers its brand through our pro-business policies, integrated infrastructure, global connectivity, multi-cultural and highly skilled Infocomm workforce. This is precisely why AT&T and many others have chosen to call Singapore "home" for their businesses in the region.
We are indeed happy and honoured that AT&T has chosen to establish its network hub in Singapore. This launch reaffirms Singapore's position as a key regional hub. It also demonstrates that, despite the overall economic slowdown, companies that have their sights focused clearly on the future will continue to invest in order to position themselves for the tremendous business opportunities that exist in the region. I congratulate AT&T on the launch of its Global Network Services Hub in Singapore and wish the company and its staff great success in the years ahead.