5 April 2005 - Keynote Speech By Mr Leong Keng Thai, Deputy Chief Executive, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore At the Launch of Intel's Asia Broadband Campaign.

Keynote Speech By Mr Leong Keng Thai, Deputy Chief Executive, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore At the Launch of Intel's Asia Broadband Campaign on 5 April 2005.

A very good morning,

Mr Gerry Greeve, Vice-President, Asia Pacific Intel Corporation,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.


1. For a hundred years or so in the history of telecommunications, Asia has often lagged behind the western world in terms of new services introduction and usage. But then again, we were talking about telegraph and plain old telephone services. With the emergence of the cellular phone and the internet, Asia has proven that its people are great adopters and innovators of modern telecommunications. Today, Asia holds significant leadership positions in many accolades on things like broadband network pervasiveness, cellular phone penetration and innovative services usage. It is therefore most appropriate that Intel decided to launch this executive briefing on their Asian Broadband Campaign so that we can share experiences on broadband deployment and further promulgate broadband services across Asia.

Where We Are Today in Broadband

2. For Singapore, we are fortunate that with a compact city state and a relatively small population living in high density housing, we are able to achieve some success in deployment of broadband and internet services. In the latest Global Information Technology Report by the World Economic Forum1, Singapore, an Asian country topped the rankings of the study's Networked Readiness Index 2004-2005 for the first time. The Index measures the ability of individuals and the government to tap into the potential of infocomm technology.

3. Today, 74% of all households in Singapore own one or more personal computer and 65% have Internet access2. In Singapore last year, the top three applications of Internet users aged 15 and above were email, online information retrieval and download of application software. In addition, the usage of more sophisticated applications beyond email have also picked up. Online information retrievals and searches on the Internet went up to 82% in 2004. This represents an increase by almost 20% from 2003 figures. Software application downloads also increased from 43% to 62% in 2004. Online shopping saw the highest growth with a three-fold increase since the year 2000. Overall, 30% of Internet users last year did some form of online shopping last year. These figures point to the rapid expansion of Internet use, an increasingly tech-savvy population and a growing demand for broadband access.

4. In terms of broadband access, as of January 2005, household broadband penetration rate in Singapore was 43% as compared to 34% the same time last year. And according to ITU, Singapore's broadband deployment growth rate was 156% between 2002 and 2003. Although these figures are encouraging, there is still room for growth.

5. In Singapore's own experience, we see 3 key factors of success for adoption of broadband. Firstly, there should be the availability of investment for broadband infrastructures. There are currently a variety of possible technologies including ADSL, cable modem and wireless, just to name a few. Secondly, there must be affordable low end-user pricing such that there is economic motivation for end-users to want to go broadband. An important cost element to note for countries such as Singapore where there is heavy reliance on external applications and content is the availability and cost of international bandwidth. This cost element in particular can very significantly affect the total cost of providing quality broadband services. Lastly and perhaps most importantly is the readiness of the user base. Therefore, in my view, having a high PC or internet device penetration is absolutely critical, coupled with users who are trained and adept at using such tools for real-life applications.

6. Building a broadband infrastructure is only the first step but I think this is a very crucial step because end-user affordability of this infrastructure will be a key driver to adoption. To this end, actively promoting competition and market ingenuity in this area can help a long way in bringing about a vibrant broadband market. While Singapore already has limited competition by way of two major broadband infrastructures, namely ADSL and cable modem, we feel that there is further room for a more competitive broadband market that will further drive prices lower. We hope to see new forms of infrastructure-based competition in promising technologies such as wireless and powerline.

Singapore's Wireless Broadband Developments

7. IDA announced earlier in February this year that a total of 140MHz of bandwidth in the 2.3 and 2.5GHz bands will be allocated for commercial deployment of wireless broadband services and of course this includes WiMAX. Application for spectrum will close on 21st April and the results will be announced in May. IDA would like to see the introduction of wireless broadband as an alternative infrastructure so that not only will there be lower broadband access prices but also greater broadband offerings to complement other existing high-speed connectivity options.

8. With the emergence of wireless broadband standards such as IEEE 802.16 and IEEE 802.20, equipment vendors can create products and solutions that can interoperate. Interoperability will result in economies of scale that may mean more competitively-priced products and solutions for end-users. In addition, for countries with vast rural areas to serve, these emerging wireless technologies are good news since they are both easy to implement at relatively low investments.

Broadband - Promoting Market Entry and Competition

9. Other than facilitating alternative broadband access to encourage greater competition in Singapore's broadband market, IDA has also put in place several other measures to promote effective competition. These include wholesale broadband access services, local loop unbundling and a framework to allow operators greater access to submarine cable systems. Only by removing competition bottlenecks can effective competition prevail. In addition, a technology neutral approach will provide a competition-conducive environment and allow innovations to be market tested.


10. Although Singapore has achieved much in terms of broadband developments, I think more can be done. We will continue in our efforts to promote broadband growth on several fronts namely regulatory, developmental and promotional. Moving forward, IDA will continue to work with the industry to develop capabilities and innovation by encouraging research and development in the areas of broadband and wireless technologies.

11. On the regional front, Singapore will work with other regulators and regional organisations to strengthen cooperation in the harmonisation of standards. This is an important goal to strive for as standardisation helps to bring about a larger economy of scale for vendors as well as facilitate cross-border trade. For example, Singapore made a proposal for cooperation on the alignment of spectrum allocations and power specification to facilitate the development of RFID in ASEAN. This was done at the tenth ASEAN Telecommunication Regulators' Council meeting. Such a move will greatly enhance Intra-ASEAN cooperation and connectivity and benefit all parties concerned. In the same light, we welcome industry collaborations on potential broadband developments in Asia so that we can work together to further accelerate Asia's broadband development.

12. With this, I would like to congratulate Intel on the launch of their Asian Broadband Campaign and hope that you have a fruitful experience today as well as enjoy your stay in Singapore. On this note, here's to a vibrant Asian broadband economy!

13. Thank you.


1 For more information on report visit www.weforum.org/gitr

2 IDA Survey on Infocomm usage by households & by individuals for 2003

Last updated on: 13 Mar 2023