Telecommunications infrastructure solely for public-sector use is being planned to drive Singapore's smart-nation agenda, in what could be a world first.
This new infrastructure will run the necessary telco equipment for linking, among other things, a network of sensors slated to be rolled out islandwide by the end of this year.
The sensors - which can be in the form of computer chips or surveillance cameras - are for increasing round-the-clock surveillance in Little India and the Civic District in the heart of Singapore, for starters.
Other smart-nation projects include monitoring the risk of flooding via sensors in drains, and the safety of the elderly via sensors installed in their homes.
The telco that will operate the infrastructure on behalf of the Government will be identified and certified by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA). The authority is already looking for contractors to design and build this back-end framework.
This Internet-protocol (IP) backbone will also carry signals from mobile base stations, according to tender documents seen by The Straits Times.
Traditionally, such an IP backbone - which provides links as fast as 10Gbps, or 100 times the speed of most home broadband packages today - is owned by telcos. Organisations, including government agencies and businesses, lease the links from telcos.
"As Singapore becomes a smart nation, we see new areas and opportunities for the Government to do more to assist, grow and build up a common infrastructure to support the deployment of smart-nation applications," said an IDA spokesman.
"It is critical for the Government to own key components of the IP core to ensure that such a platform is secure and trusted, to safeguard potential sensitive information used across multiple government agencies."
At least one telco has voiced concerns over potentially losing business from government agencies.
"It will no longer be business as usual. The competitive landscape will change significantly and this change is initiated by the industry regulator itself," said Benjamin Tan, managing director of SuperInternet.
SuperInternet sells high-speed connectivity to government agencies to link their offices and data centres.
Other telcos, such as SingTel and StarHub, declined to comment.
But the IDA spokesman assured the industry that there would be no conflict of interest.
The tender for the IP backbone, which requires round-the-clock maintenance, closes on Feb 10.
Mike Ang, president of the Association of Telecommunications Industry of Singapore, said the set-up could be a world first.
"Some existing telcos' business may be reduced presumably for security reasons," said Mr Ang. "The question is: 'At what point does security justify the cost of such a set-up?' "
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