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Year In Review 2015: Building the Foundation of the Smart Nation

Year In Review 2015: Building the Foundation of the Smart Nation

Here's a quick recap of the Smart Nation-related initiatives and announcements by IDA in 2015.

Singapore is positioning itself to seize the opportunities arising from the convergence of infocomm and media technology. 

In August 2015, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information announced Infocomm Media 2025 which charts the directions the country should take to stay at the forefront of innovation and achieve its vision of becoming a Smart Nation. 

The plan outlined the strategies to grow the key enablers which include the infocomm media infrastructure, agile enterprises, skilled manpower, and cutting-edge technology and research. 

“In this vision, we see infocomm media powering economic and social transformations that will improve people’s quality of life, and contribute to sustainable and quality economic growth,” said Dr Yaacob.

Infocomm Media 2025

The intent of Infocomm Media 2025: To build an infocomm media ecosystem that is more innovative and capable of creating solutions that will enable Singapore to face national challenges with greater confidence. 

Koh Boon Hwee

Mr Koh Boon Hwee, Chairman of the Infocomm Media 2025 Steering Committee at the official launch in August 2015.

These challenges include improving productivity growth, creating high-skilled jobs, supporting an ageing population and fostering a cohesive society in the midst of globalisation. 

Infocomm Media 2025 articulates three broad strategic thrusts to address these challenges and proposes the capabilities that Singapore needs to build to effectively harness the power of infocomm media.

The first thrust is aimed at enhancing Singapore’s economic competitiveness by capitalising on data, advanced communications and computational technologies.

For the second thrust, the masterplan envisages an infocomm media ecosystem that encourages risk taking and continuous experimentation to develop successful Singapore-made content, products, and services. 

The third thrust aims to connect the Singaporeans through infocomm media to enhance their quality of life and to promote a stronger national identity. 

“Each thrust focuses on a different area but they share one unifying goal that is to foster a globally competitive infocomm media ecosystem that enables and complements our Smart Nation vision, that brings about economic and social transformation, and that creates enriching and compelling content to help bind our communities and create a shared identity,” said Mr Koh Boon Hwee, Chairman of the Infocomm Media 2025 Steering Committee.

Building the Infrastructural Components of the Smart Nation

Work has already begun to implement some of the ideas articulated in Infocomm Media 2025. For example, Singapore is developing a Smart Nation Platform (SNP) and Heterogeneous Network (HetNet) that will form the infrastructural foundation for Smart Nation, delivering connectivity to "Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, All the Time" (E3A). 

Smart Nation Platform (SNP)

The SNP will enable public agencies to enhance their situational awareness and to deliver anticipatory responses and services to businesses and individuals. Today, various agencies are already deploying sensors to improve their ability to better manage public safety, monitor the environment, or control traffic. 

With a more coordinated approach using Aggregation Gateway (or AG) boxes, the data from these sensors are being brought together to generate insights that will enable the government to operate holistically and manage the city more effectively. 


A quick primer: The heterogenous network, or HetNet, consists of various interoperable wireless access technologies working together to provide connectivity for everyone, everything, everywhere, all the time. The aim is to make available high quality and seamless mobile and wireless connectivity for consumers and devices, even at congested areas. 


A visual guide to the Hetnet trials in Jurong Lake District, as displayed at the IDA Booth during CommunicAsia 2015.

This enhanced infrastructure will be an important enabler for future Smart Nation applications such as autonomous vehicles, remote health monitoring and remote learning. 

In January 2015, IDA made available additional Time Division Duplex spectrum in the 2.3 GHz and 2.5 GHz band to facilitate HetNet Trials. Partnering IDA in the HetNet Trials are M1, MyRepublic, Singtel and StarHub.

The trials are carried out in the Jurong Lake District with the objective to identify optimal solutions to ease network congestion in areas with heavy human traffic. It will also validate the feasibility of seamless handover between cellular and wireless networks. 

As part of the trials, free Wi-Fi will also be made available to the public on selected buses and at selected public locations in the area. The expected outcome is better consumer experience with higher data speeds and uninterrupted connectivity. 

For example, a consumer could experience seamless and uninterrupted connectivity  while watching a live HD video and moving from the MRT station to his home.

Green data centres

Another important infrastructure component of a Smart Nation is the data centre. In May, IDA announced the Green Data Centre Innovation Programme (GDCIP) to boost the competitiveness of the data centre industry by raising its overall energy efficiency. It has been estimated that a 20 per cent energy efficiency improvement in the existing stock of commercial data centres in Singapore could yield combined annual savings in excess of S$34 million.

The GDCIP intends to catalyse the development and adoption of innovative green data centre related products, solutions and services and direct local R&D efforts in green data centre technologies by providing research funding for key areas of research.

Laying the regulatory foundations

While the technological possibilities are exciting, innovation cannot take place in a vacuum, said IDA’s Managing Director Ms Jacqueline Poh.


IDA Managing Director Jacqueline Poh

As a telecom regulator, IDA has been playing an active role in laying the foundations for a better broadband infrastructure and a more vibrant broadband ecosystem. As Ms Poh pointed out, the Nationwide Broadband Network was built with a combination of government subsidies and industry participation in an innovative structure that involved operational and structural separation of the fibre network-owning, opco-owning and retail service provider (RSP) layers. 

“From Singapore’s experience, the entry of new broadband RSPs offering services over our nationwide fibre network has certainly led to more innovative broadband packages at competitive prices,” said Ms Poh in an address at the Asia Pacific Telecommunity Policy and Regulatory Forum in August.

As the number of RSPs increased from three in 2011 to 30 in 2015, the prices of broadband packages have been dropping. Niche offerings to groups such as gamers have also emerged.

Fibre Ready Scheme 

To provide building owners with additional incentive to equip their buildings with broadband infrastructure, IDA’s Fibre Ready Scheme was revised to provide increased subsidy of up to 90 per cent of the cost of new in-building infrastructure for fibre services. 

This allows building owners and management corporations to offer businesses faster subscription to fibre broadband services, reduce the need for ad-hoc installation work and provide greater ease of maintenance for fibre services. At the end of 2015, more than 40 buildings owners and management corporations applied for the Fibre Ready Scheme and seven buildings completed their installation.

Mobile milestones

IDA has also been surveying the mobile network operators’ (MNOs) 4G network performance to promote greater awareness and transparency to consumers. In February, it announced that the MNOs have achieved nationwide outdoor street level coverage 18 months ahead of the June 2016 timeline. 

With potential new entrants keen to bring more competition and innovation to the mobile broadband market, IDA has announced plans to conduct a spectrum allocation exercise in early 2016 to make available a total of 225 MHz of spectrum for mobile services. This includes spectrum in the 700 MHz band, which will be freed after the digital TV switchover. 

Strengthening Cybersecurity

In her address at the Asia Pacific Telecommunity Policy and Regulatory Forum, Ms Poh also highlighted the importance of cybersecurity in the building of a Smart Nation. “It is critical that increasingly ICT-enabled systems are not victims of cyberattack and that critical data is not stolen in cyber breaches,” she said.

Measures have been taken to strengthen capabilities in monitoring and detecting cyber threats through the Cyber Watch Centre (CWC) and Monitoring and Operations Command Centre (MOCC) as well as securing of government ICT infrastructure through DDoS mitigation services and tighter access controls.

Ramping up MTCS

With more and more organisations turning to cloud services to meet their IT needs, another area that IDA has been focusing on is cloud data security. In 2013, it launched the world’s first Multi-Tier Cloud Security (MTCS) Singapore Standard to help users gain clarity over security provisioning by cloud service providers. 

“MTCS’s main strength lies in its flexibility. It keeps security controls comprehensive and stringent as a strong baseline for any sector to adopt. Yet, its multi-tiered approach also allows enterprises the adaptability to choose the security level they need,” said Mr Khoong Hock Yun, Assistant Chief Executive, IDA.

Since the launch, a total of  62 cloud services both large and small, such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Inspire-Tech’s EasiShare have been certified, providing a wide range of certified cloud services targeted for both enterprises and SMEs. 

Taking this one step further, IDA launched the “Support for Cloud-enabled Certified Secure SaaS” (SUCCESS) programme in June 2015, partnering MTCS-certified Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers to encourage the adoption of MTCS by Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers. 

Under this programme, IaaS provide incentives and assistance to independent software vendors (ISVs), in exchange for the ISV obtaining MTCS certification. To date, 4 SaaS have completed certification.

To benchmark the Singapore standards and enable industry players worldwide to leverage on them, IDA has also harmonised MTCS with international security standards and schemes such as the ISO27001 and CSA Open Certification Framework. This effort allows CSPs certified to either MTCS or these international benchmarks to quickly cross-certify themselves, aligning the global ecosystem to a set of common languages and standards. 

Driving IOT and data standards

A vibrant digital economy will also require the smooth transmission of data across networks to deliver compelling applications and use cases. As a regulator, IDA is facilitating this by developing standards in areas such as the Internet of Things and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.

IDA has completed two sets of the Technical Reference for Sensor Network for Smart Nation – one for public areas, and one for homes. These technical references will provide guidance to companies and developers as they develop applications and services riding on the sensor networks.

Cloud Asia

IDA Assistant Chief Executive Khoong Hock Yun giving the welcome address at Cloud Asia 2015.

Standards and guidelines are also being developed to foster clarity between data users and dataset providers and grow Singapore’s data sector. Speaking at CloudAsia 2015 in October, Mr Khoong said data users face the challenge of selecting quality datasets from among several similar-looking datasets. This is especially when private sector data providers require a fee upfront for access to their datasets. 

To address this, IDA has developed a technical reference for data quality metrics (TR41) to help dataset providers measure and indicate if a dataset is reliable, relevant and accessible. This will provide users with a foundational base of comparison between similar-looking datasets from distinct providers. 

IDA is also aware of the speed at which datasets are utilised and therefore the need to ensure real-time updates to the data. To provide a coherent versioning methodology for this, it has formed a working group to turn its Dataset Versioning Guidelines, which were released in February, into a technical reference.

To facilitate dataset discovery between potential data users and willing private sector data providers, IDA also launched a Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) pilot in 2014. To date, there are 25 data providers are participating in the DaaS pilot, with about 70 datasets ranging from real estate to mobility patterns.

Working with ITU to develop a smart cities index

On the international front, Singapore is taking part in an exercise led by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to pilot a set of key performance indicators that will go towards the eventual development of a “Global Smart Sustainable Cities Index”. The index will allow ITU to benchmark and rank cities’ performance in terms of their level of “smartness”.

Under a collaboration agreement signed by Singapore and ITU in October at ITU Telecom World 2015 in Budapest, Hungary, Singapore will take part in a two-year pilot exercise to test and pilot over 100 indicators that will provide a holistic assessment of how smart and sustainable a city is. 


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