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Asia Telecom 97 - 'Singapore ONE, Pioneering the 21st Century'

LTC (NS) Foo Jong Ai, Director (Multimedia Development) Telecommunication Authority of Singapore (TAS) Speech - Asia Telecom 97 - 'Singapore ONE, Pioneering the 21st Century'

LTC (NS) Foo Jong Ai, Director (Multimedia Development)
Telecommunication Authority of Singapore (TAS)
Speech - Asia Telecom 97 - 'Singapore ONE, Pioneering the 21st Century'
Singapore, 13 June 1997


This paper describes Singapore's approach to jump-start the development of a national multimedia broadband network (MBN) infrastructure, named "Singapore ONE". Singapore's dramatic development to achieve the economic status today has been due in no small measure to the Government's foresight in investing in and developing infrastructure - airports, seaports, land transport network and telecommunications. As the next century will witness an increasing reliance on information and knowledge as "engines of growth" for the new economy, an advanced high-speed information network infrastructure is needed for Singapore to stay globally competitive. The premise of the approach for Singapore ONE is that, left to the market forces and commercial initiatives, such a national information infrastructure may not be built fast enough to ensure Singapore's long term competitiveness and leading position as an advanced value-added information and communication hub. The strategy is for the Government to jump-start the development process while the industry would be encouraged to co-operate and invest in the construction of such a broadband infrastructure and to develop applications and services.

Pioneering the 21st Century

1. Introduction

1.1. The telecommunication infrastructure and services in Singapore have undergone rapid development and changes in the last decade. Singapore's current telecommunication infrastructure for the PSTN has achieved 100% digitalisation by the end of 1994, and it comprises an elaborate optical fibre network linking all telephone exchanges and an extensive undersea cable network which provides the international connectivity. The fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) programme will reach all high-rise residential and commercial buildings within this year. The network advancements are expected to continue in the next decade while the Telecommunication Authority of Singapore (TAS) implements liberalisation policies to introduce competition progressively in the telecommunication industry.

1.2. Under the IT2000 vision, Singapore will be transformed into an "Intelligent Island" by the turn of the century. It is envisaged that a high performance broadband network infrastructure with voice, high-speed data and video transmission capabilities will have to be developed in order to enable the full potential of the "Intelligent Island" to be realised.

2. Prelude

2.1. In Singapore, a few key developments have preceded the Singapore ONE projects which put Singapore in a good state for the introduction of a multi-media broadband network. Singapore Telecom (SingTel) had initiated the development of a broadband testbed with the implementation of a B-ISDN service trial in 1992. Following the B-ISDN trial, SingTel embarked on a Video-on-Demand (VoD) system trial. A fibre optic high-speed testbed based on ATM switching is currently in place at the Science Park, linking the R&D institutions like the Information Technology Institute (ITI), Institute of System Science (ISS) and the universities, for experimentation and development of advanced IT and broadband applications. Both ADSL and fibre-coaxial access network technologies were experimented.

2.2. Since the Government had given the greenlight for the construction of a cable TV network by Singapore Cablevision (SCV), SCV is currently driving the construction of a nation-wide cable TV network based on fibre-coaxial technology, with a target to pass 750,000 homes in Singapore by 1998. In addition to Singapore Telecom's ADSL network, the cable TV network of SCV will be able to provide another key means of broadband access from homes.

2.3. Currently, TAS has licensed three Internet access service providers (IASP), i.e. SingNet, Pacific Internet and Cyberway to operate Internet access services in Singapore. The Internet or "Cyberspace" has blossomed into one of the most active area in IT. Government departments have started to provide information and other services over Internet. The provision of Internet access terminals in school libraries will allow students to explore the Internet. Internet information retrieval facilities are also being brought to the general public in the form of public access terminals in community centres and public libraries etc.

2.4. In Singapore, you are also looking at a nation that has gone through more than a decade where computer literacy and applications are emphasised in the educational system. With the high computer literacy rate in Singapore, PC penetration to every home is foreseeable. Future development of the IT industry will need to see significant improvements in the on-line access time and proliferation of multimedia applications.

2.5. Singapore has the necessary ingredients in place, to move into our next phase of infrastructure development to harness information technology in order to realise its goal of a better life for our people.

3. Need for a New Approach and Government Initiative

3.1. It is recognised, however, that the development of a nation-wide broadband infrastructure, if left purely to commercial decisions, will be slow. This is expected in view of the lack of proven commercially viable broadband applications and an uncertain market demand for the sustainable operation of such a network. Since SingTel has been privatised in 1993, it is envisaged that its decisions on projects for the building of future telecommunications infrastructure will necessarily be demand-driven and largely influenced by profitability. For SCV, a similar situation exists and its priority had been cable TV service provision and subscriber penetration.

3.2. From a national perspective, Singapore cannot afford to wait until the commercial viability of a broadband network infrastructure becomes a certainty before embarking on its development. Thus, it is imperative that the Government takes the initiative to drive and consolidate a national approach to keep Singapore's development of a pervasive broadband network infrastructure in step with the current world developments. To do this, our approach is for the Government to underwrite part of the investment and operating costs of the physical network. Such an approach will break the vicious cycle of applications and infrastructure waiting for each other to mature. It is expected that as applications and services reach a critical mass, the network will become viable commercially.

3.3. The realisation of such a pervasive broadband infrastructure is currently being implemented as a joint project driven by a Steering Committee comprising the Telecommunication Authority of Singapore (TAS), the National Computer Board (NCB) and the National Science and Technology Board (NSTB), and supported by the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Singapore Broadcasting Authority (SBA). Known as "Singapore ONE" -- One Network for Everyone, the operational pilot network and services were officially launched in Asia Telecom in June 1997.

3.4. As an indication of the Government's commitment to Singapore ONE, TAS, NCB, NSTB and EDB will fund a substantial portion of the initial project costs. In addition, Government ministries and agencies will build up government services on Singapore ONE.

4. Project Implementation

4.1. The potential of "Singapore ONE" lies not only in its high speed and broadband capabilities but also its pervasiveness. It will eventually become an island-wide network that reaches the masses and provides a common platform for a comprehensive range of multimedia applications and services to be developed and provided to the homes and businesses. The Singapore ONE's development will be in line with the IT2000 vision and the Government's objective to maintain a high quality of public service to the people.

4.2. The Singapore ONE project consists of two parts - the physical network component with its cables, switches and terminal equipment, and the applications and services component. Conceptually, the network infrastructure will take the form of a core or nation-wide backbone network and several local access networks that will reach the homes and businesses. The core network has open access interfaces for connection to the various service providers and the local access networks of Singapore Telecom (ADSL) and Singapore Cable Vision (co-axial cable). The core or backbone of Singapore ONE is built and owned by an industry consortium, 1-Net Singapore Pte Ltd, which operates the network and charges regulated tariffs for usage.

4.3. The Government will play a catalytic role to strengthen collaboration between public and private sectors in developing the network further. Key industry players will be encouraged to actively participate in developing applications for use on Singapore ONE.

5. Applications and Services

5.1. Applications and services critical to the success of Singapore ONE will be encouraged and developed. Four important areas of emphasis have been identified -- Government, Education, Home and Business.

5.2. Government

In the area of Government applications, Singapore ONE will bring Government services closer to the people through the use of full-function video-conferencing and interactive technology. These virtual Government offices, which may be reached through interactive kiosks across the island, will enable users to carry out multiple transactions such as paying bills, renewing licenses and applying for public housing. Users will be able to interact live with government service representatives without having to physically visit their offices. This is expected to provide an unprecedented level of government service - convenient, high quality, personal, responsive and efficient - in line with the objectives on quality of public service. Eventually, such services could be brought to the home.

5.3. Education

In Education, high quality multimedia educational tools are being developed. With Singapore ONE, educational packages would be made available on-line to schools and could also be ultimately extended to the home. With it, students can engage in collaborative learning, working together on a project at their homes through video-conferencing. Students can also gain access to multimedia teaching materials for self-paced learning.

5.4. Home

Singaporean households will no longer be just passive receivers of information either, but will become interactive users of information. Singapore ONE will allow services such as high-speed Internet access, LAN emulation for telecommuting, travel services, virtual bookshops and CD stores, electronic libraries, and other entertainment on demand and multimedia information services, to be brought to the home.

5.5. Business

For the businessman, Singapore ONE will mean better corporate communication and coordination. Electronic document exchange and contract signing, as well as complex financial transactions will be made possible, quickly and securely. This network will provide new and improved channels for trade, fuel electronic commerce and boost the local electronic media industry.

6. Pilot Phase

6.1. The Singapore ONE network and services launch in Asia Telecom 97 signals the start of a commercial pilot trial. An initial 400 trial households have been identified. Each trial household will receive a trial package which includes a broadband access modem (either a cable modem or ADSL modem), a network card that connects to the broadband access network, a smart card and a smart card reader.

6.2. The number of trial households and offices will be scaled up to at least 5,000 by the end of the year. Beyond 1997, it is anticipated that full commercial service will be launched by a number of Singapore ONE partners.

7. Conclusion

7.1. Singapore is committed in its effort to prepare the nation for the next century -- a century that will be shaped by a country's ability to assimilate technology. As the next century will witness an increasing reliance on information and knowledge as "engines of growth" for the new economy, an advanced high-speed information network infrastructure is needed for Singapore to stay globally competitive. Besides being a growth industry on its own, telecommunications is also a major contributor to growth in all other service sectors, and is a key component of overall economic progress.

7.2. In conclusion, Singapore ONE is the building block towards pioneering the country into the new society of the 21st century.