Bumps on Singapore's cyber highway

Bumps on Singapore's cyber highway

SINGAPORE - Singapore's dream of building a smooth, state-of-the- art broadband super highway is still a work in progress.

This is evident from the vehement opposition from industry players to last month's consolidation request by OpenNet, NetLink Trust, CityNet and SingTel. Six companies and the Asia Pacific Carriers' Coalition (APCC), which includes a number of multinational telecom players, issued a joint statement opposing the move.

When the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (Next Gen NBN) was announced, the government's intention was to not only build a state-of-the-art broadband network but also use the process to spur competition in the market. The broadband network was divided into three layers. The NetCo (in this case, OpenNet) was tasked with building and running the fibre network and allied infrastructure.

Sitting on top of that would be the so-called OpCos, which would buy bandwidth at wholesale rates from the NetCo and sell this to the third layer: the so-called RSPs (retail service providers) who would sell the bandwidth with value-added services to customers.

The objective of introducing more competition has been reasonably successful as there are now eight OpCos taking fibre-based services at the wholesale level and more than 20 RSPs.

However, there have been several hiccups, with missed deadlines and complaints about service quality. One of the arguments put forward for this consolidation is that it would help streamline operations.

The argument goes that with OpenNet merged with NetLink Trust, it would allow for improved fault detection and resolution, better coordination and planning for deployment of the infrastructure and improved operational efficiency, among various things.

There is certainly merit in this argument. However, the problem is that such consolidation raises fears that SingTel, which owns 100 per cent of NetLink Trust, but has no management control (which rests with CityNet), would be in an advantageous position versus other companies with whom it competes both at the wholesale and retail level.

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