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Signing of the R-and-Bnet@Home Memorandum of Understanding

1. Welcome to the Signing of the R&Bnet@Home Memorandum of Understanding, forming a technology alliance that will conduct focussed R&D and commercialisation of home networking solutions based on infra-red and ...

Leong Keng Thai, Director-General, TAS - Opening Speech
Singapore, 26 June 1999

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. Welcome to the Signing of the R&Bnet@Home Memorandum of Understanding, forming a technology alliance that will conduct focussed R&D and commercialisation of home networking solutions based on infra-red and Bluetooth technologies.

2. In the last few years the info-communications industry has seen phenomenal growth and profound changes, at a pace and of a nature that has been unparalleled in human history. The availability of cheap processing power has made possible what used to be the topic of science fiction a few decades ago. A palm-top computer today has more processing power than the mainframes of yesteryears.

3. Similarly, the access bandwidth available to end-users has seen something of an explosion too. We have moved on from the Jurassic days of the 300 bps modems to the breezy 56 kbps modems of the mid-nineties. And just as people were predicting that the theoretical limit has been reached, broadband networks started popping up. Today, right here in Singapore, we have an island-wide broadband multimedia network - able to connect all homes, schools, offices and business to a high-speed multimedia backbone. Consumers and other end-users can currently access the multimedia services on Singapore ONE either using their conventional phone lines using ADSL technology or using the Cable TV lines with Cable Modems. The size of the data pipe reaching homes has grown to the order of a few Megabits per second - thousands of times the speed of conventional analog modems. Today there are more than 60,000 users on broadband access networks including both ADSL and Cable Modem users.

4. The nation-wide availability of a world-class broadband infrastructure - Singapore ONE - has put tremendous bandwidth capacity at the doorstep of Singapore homes. The R&BNet@Home Alliance takes this a step further and makes seamless and wireless access possible within homes. It will employ Infrared and RF (Bluetooth) technologies to provide broadband wireless access within homes. It opens the doors for the creation of smart consumer appliances which will not only communicate with each other but will also be able connect to the Internet via Singapore ONE. This will enable a whole host of multimedia applications and services being made available to consumers.

5. Fuelled by the convergence of the underlying technologies, the telecommunications, computer networking, consumer electronics and broadcasting industries have converged too.

6. Convergence is also occurring at another level, in what is termed as fixed-mobile convergence. The line distinguishing fixed terminals (like the plain old telephones) and mobile terminals is fast disappearing. Home based networks are one of the most visible manifestations of this trend. With the ubiquitous home computer being the centre of gravity, a variety of standards are emerging to interconnect the PC to a variety of multimedia peripherals. The consumer electronics industry is fast building bridges to join this trend with home entertainment systems working - although in a limited sense at present - with the PC.

7. I am happy to note that the R&Bnet@Home alliance is targeting exactly this segment of the converged infocommunications market. Singapore with its unique advantage of having a world-class broadband network in the form of Singapore ONE is ideally poised to obtain an early mover's advantage in this area. We have identified home networks as an area of strategic interest to Singapore industry.

8. The partners in the R&Bnet@Home alliance need no introduction, and each is an acknowledged leader in its field.

- Kent Ridge Digital Labs, brings its well-honed software and systems expertise in hosting this alliance.

- Two teams from Nanyang Technological University - the School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering and the Centre for Signal Processing will conduct relatively upstream R&D into developing the physical components and technology required to push up the data rates to a few tens of megabits per second using Diffused Infrared techiques. This involves expertise in the niche areas of photonics hardware technology and signal processing algorithms.

- The Institute of Microelectronics leads the drive into miniaturising the systems developed by the partners onto semiconductor chips

- Parallax Research Pte Ltd brings its technopreneural zeal and years of experience with global customers to the alliance.

9. This is probably the first time that such an alliance is being formed in Singapore - by bringing together such domain experts into a focussed alliance. In this alliance, the partners will leverage on each other's core competencies and come out with product and service platforms that the industry could use. We recognise the access to intellectual property is a key factor required for competitiveness in the infocommunications world. We hope that efforts such as the R&Bnet@Home alliance will create a patent pool that could be used by the local industry. At the same time, we welcome and encourage the alliance to seek foreign partners who can add value and globalise this technology. The ownership of technology and intellectual property will allow the R&Bnet@Home alliance to be an active and constructive partner in any such collaboration.

10. Another important facet of the R&Bnet@Home alliance is that marketing and commercialisation have been initiated at the same time as technology development. TAS applauds the Alliance's decision to form a proactive work group to develop marketing strategies in synchronisation with the R&D teams.

11. In line with our corporate mission to promote a vibrant info-communications industry, TAS is glad to play a facilitating role in the formation of this consortium. Along with the National Science and Technology Board (NSTB) and other government agencies, TAS will nurture and support the R&D activities of the R&Bnet@Home alliance.

12. I would like to thank all the members from KRDL, NTU EEE, CSP, IME, Parallax Research and NSTB for their efforts in forging this initiative. I am sure this spirit of co-operation and teamwork will stand the Alliance in good stead as it meets the challenges ahead.

13. I would like to conclude by thanking all of you for coming down today to witness the signing of this MoU and wishing the Alliance all the very best in its endeavours.

14. Thank you