SingTel pays hefty price for fire

SingTel pays hefty price for fire

SingTel has been slapped with a $6 million fine, the biggest to be handed out to a telco here, for last year's fire at a cable facility which crippled telecommunications services in the northern and western parts of Singapore.

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) also imposed penalties on two other parties involved in the October disruption, which hit residential users, government agencies, businesses, banks, automated teller machines and kiosk payment machines.

CityNet - the owner of the Bukit Panjang exchange, where 149 fibre-optic cables were burned - was fined $300,000 for procedural lapses. OpenNet, meanwhile, was fined $200,000 for failing to restore services promptly.

IDA's deputy chief executive, Leong Keng Thai, said yesterday that the service disruption was "very serious" and of "unprecedented" magnitude but, more importantly, it could have been avoided.

A "strong signal" must be sent to telcos to take network resilience very seriously, and to invest in the infrastructure and processes to prevent and minimise disruptions, Mr Leong added.

Since the start of the year, IDA has been reviewing the resilience of Singapore's telecommunications network, and the study is expected to be completed by the second half of this year.

Mr Leong said the review will include "examining potential single points of failure" and "strengthening diversity in critical infrastructure and services".

A total of 270,000 subscribers across the various service providers were hit by the disruption, which started on Oct 9. The services were fully restored only on Oct 17.

The fire was caused by hot works conducted by SingTel on its cables at the facility on Oct 9, during which an employee used an unauthorised blowtorch.

The blowtorch generated twice as much heat as the SingTel-issued one, and created a slow-burning fire.

The employee also failed to observe a 30-minute fire watch after completing the work, and neglected to reactivate the fire alarm before he left for lunch.

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