Broadband in Singapore - Taking Stock and Looking to the Future

Khoong Hock Yun, Assistant Chief Executive, Infocomm Development, IDA Singapore - Speech CIAPR Forum - Singapore Day Symposium, Grand Hyatt Shanghai, China

Khoong Hock Yun, Assistant Chief Executive, Infocomm Development, IDA Singapore - Speech
CIAPR Forum - Singapore Day Symposium, Grand Hyatt Shanghai, China

25 May 2001

Mr He Shouchang, Deputy Director General, Shanghai Informatization Office

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

My Chairman has shared with you yesterday as well as this morning on Singapore's Informatization Process, developments in some of our key areas and opportunities for collaboration in some of these areas. At this session, I would like to delve deeper into Singapore's broadband developments and share with everyone here on

  • our Singapore ONE experience
  • where we are today in our broadband developments, and
  • how we can work together to create a vibrant Asia Broadband e-economy.

1. Singapore ONE

a. When we started planning for the implementation of Singapore ONE, our goals were basically to:

i. Expediate and deliver the benefits of broadband services to everyone
ii. Nurture the multimedia broadband industry
iii. And position Singapore as the place of innovation and leadership in broadband exploitation

b. These goals work towards achieving the IT2000 vision through it's five strategic thrusts (explained earlier by my Chairman) so as to "transform Singapore into an Intelligent Island where the use of Information Technology is pervasive in every aspect be it work, home or play.

c. In order to achieve our first goal of enabling everyone to enjoy the benefits of broadband, we had to define how we would like our national information infrastructure to be. We wanted an open broadband infrastructure so that it enables multiple access options be it ADSL, cable, ATM or even wireless. Users therefore can choose their own preferred access mode that will allow them full access to all the broadband content, applications or services hosted on the backbone. The access providers can still package services which are exclusive to their network as part of their value-added services

d. With definition in place, four strategic thrusts were then outlined to enable the roll-out of our national broadband infrastructure. These include:

i. Providing Access for Everyone. The first thrust was to have every Singaporean to be able to access broadband network, be it from their own homes, offices, schools or public places. Our target was to have 99% of homes to be able to access either through ADSL or cable by 1999. In terms of public access, it could be through kiosks that will be placed all over Singapore, through community clubs, libraries and schools. We hope to achieve at 400,000 users by 2001.

ii. Encouraging the Development of compelling Applications. Secondly,besides putting the infrastructure in place, we would like to deploy key compelling applications that will enable users to fully experience the potential of broadband. Some of these would include video-on-demand, video-conferencing, business-to-business services, elearning, etc... To do this, we collaborated with 40 leading Multinational Corporations and about 100 local companies to deploy broadband applications over the network.

iii. Getting everyone onboard. Thirdly, in order for users to be able to use broadband at work, home and in school, we had to put in place programmes to help build the awareness, provide hands-on experience as well as training on using some of the applications. Our goal at that time was to have at least 45% PC penetration with 99% of the companies computerised and all students to be IT savvy. Our outreach programmes include the deployment of IT scouts, en masse training, IT coach, etc...

iv. Development made easy. In order to proliferate the use and development of broadband applications, we were also exploring alternative appliances and applications that may potentially have an impact usage. This include exploring video-conferencing technology and appliances; chinese input system to enable Chinese applications; different types of kiosks for public access; Internet TV to enable mass deployment; and smart cards for secured access.

2. Where we are Today

a. Today, 4 years later, from the goals and targets that we've initially set out, we have achieved the following:

i. Nationwide availability of broadband with 99% coverage and access options via ADSL, cable, ATM and we are currently exploring the wireless option.

ii. We have over 300,000 users as at end February this year and we think that we will be able to achieve the 400,000 users by end of this year if not earlier.

iii. Currently, all schools have at least 2 ADSL connections to broadband with some of the more advanced schools or universities having campus-wide access. Most libraries and community clubs are connected to broadband.

iv. We have over 200 multimedia applications deployed over the broadband network ranging from real-time news, entertainment, business, education and government applications. We had an active participation from more than 200 local and overseas partners in the roll-out of our broadband infrastructure and the development of applications and services for the network. Altogether, both the industry and government invested over US$200million for the initial implementation.

v. Some examples of broadband applications developed on Singapore ONE include:

  • Webcast of some of our favourite local TV programmes
  • Other Entertianment sites with video-on-demand
  • Music portals by Planet MG (part of Sony Marketing) and Vivamusic that streams and delivers popular music in Asia.

vi. To encourage schools to integrate broadband in their teaching and learning, a Fast Track Programme was developed to facilitate the following:

  • Accelerate and upgrade broadband facilities for schools that are ready
  • Collaboration between education service providers and schools to develop interactive education content for their curriculum
  • Some 40 schools have participated in this Fast Track Programme and we hope that these schools will lead the way for the rest of the schools to follow.

vii. Examples of interactive education content developed:

  • In the area of physics, two schools (Victoria Junior College & River Valley High) created virtual laboratories. In virtual experiments, students can experiment with complex and expensive equipment such as a cathode ray oscilloscope with the fear of breaking or the need to take turns to use or in the case of Victoria, they can learn about speed & velocity in a formula One car racing to calculate speed, mass of car and how it will react in slippery road conditions. It allows students to experience the possible outcomes of the different variables and enhance their learning process.

3. Nurture a Multimedia Broadband Industry

a. For the first phase of broadband implementation focused on enabling access for everyone and the development of multimedia rich applications to be delivered via the network.

b. With the foundations in place, the next phase is to jumpstart the Multimedia Broadband industry. This is done through efforts to stimulate both the demand and supply of broadband applications and services. One of the key efforts in stimulating the supply was the implementation of broadband open access policy for ADSL and cable infrastructure. With the liberalisation of telecommunications and the broadband open access policy, we now have over 6 broadband access providers offering innovative and attractive packages for users.

c. The other areas that was outlined included:

i. Helping to offset some of the hardware access costs. This is to enable broadband access at the last mile so as to accelerate the take up rate of broadband to form a sizeable user based that is attractive and worthwhile for international broadband content providers and developers to put their content in Singapore.

ii. Lowering the International Leased Circuit costs. One of the major cost items was the International Leased Circuit through the broadband infrastructure. These costs are expected to be lowered as more players come into the market after liberalisation. However, as this will take time to be in effect, the government will co-share (assist) some of the costs.

iii. Enabling the hosting of content. A Content Hosting programme was set up to enable content providers to quickly deploy their broadband content in Singapore and other untried markets.

iv. Development of new media applications and services. The government will also encourage the development of new media services brought about by the convergence e.g. Wireless Internet, Interactive TV and other new information appliances.

d. Our efforts to develop a vibrant multimedia broadband industry include growing the entire broadband value chain to support content or service delivery from creation to consumption. Currently, we already have over 300 broadband industry players that are providing applications and services across the whole value chain.

4. Moving Towards Mass Adoption

a. Singapore is entering the mass adoption for broadband and to help propel the industry towards mass adoption, we will help to create a link between some of the value chains to enable industry players to provide value-added applications and services to users at home, work and when they are learning.

b. The industry will encouraged to take the lead in the mass adoption phase as most of the foundations have already been put in place. The government will focus on providing a conducive and pro-business environment for the industry players to operate in.

5. Fostering Strategic Partnerships and Alliances

a. As part of the overall efforts to develop the broadband industry, we have continually worked with both the regional and international broadband industry players. It is important for industry players from the various countries to collaborate and form partnerships in areas where they are able to leverage on each other's strengths and capabilities and develop the broadband industry as a whole. Some of our partners include:

i. Asia : Kadokawa, Sumitomo (Japan); iMBC, ThruNet (Korea), ACTV, Speedcast, M&E (China/Shanghai)
ii. US : InnovaTV, Microsoft, Real Networks, Yack,
iii. Others : Popwire (Sweden), OMG (Australia)

6. Developing Capabilities and Innovation in Broadband

a. Besides facilitating collaborations, IDA has also encouraged joint developments in the area of Research and Development to help build future capabilities in Broadband and Wireless Broadband. Some of these include:

i. Working with Kent Ridge Digital Labs (a Singapore based Research centre) to look into the developments of Advanced Interactive Multimedia applications, Asian Language processing and new Information appliances.
ii. Centre for Wireless Developments that focuses wireless and wireless broadband developments
iii. Other partners include SingAREN that looks into Internet2 technologies; Ericsson Cyberlab - 3G and wireless; Duetsche Telekom - multimedia competency centre and IBM for R&D in broadband, wireless and pervasive computing.

b. Singapore has come a long way in our broadband developments. We've achieved an island-wide broadband infrastructure, a sizable user base, capabilities and technologies and an experienced supporting broadband industry, we welcome companies to use Singapore as a test-bed and launchpad for new and innovative broadband applications and services for distribution to the region and beyond. We would also like our industry players to collaborate on potential broadband developments in Asia so that we can work together to build Asia's broadband development as a whole.

7. Towards an Asian Broadband e-economy

a. In the new economy, it is not enough for an individual effort or country to work alone. Singapore as an individual country will progress on our own and so will the rest of Asia at each one's own pace and time. However with globalisation, it is not enough to work within one's own boundaries but to work together with the various hubs in Asia to develop Asia's broadband potential.

b. The challenges for Asia to do that is great. We have to recognise the fundamental issues that make Asia a challenging market. Some of these include culture, language, income gap, technology gap, infrastructure differences and different rates of economic development. These are potential barriers but in difficulty lies opportunity. We are in a better position ourselves to understand and overcome these barriers for the growth of our economy.

c. Some of our industry players have already started, as seen in some of the strategic partnerships and alliances, to collaborate in areas of localisation, licensing, marketing and distribution. We would therefore hope that more players will come together and work towards creating a vibrant Broadband e-economy for Asia.

d. Thank you.