MPs call for service accountability, network resilience from telcos

As Singaporeans become more reliant on telco networks, there is a need to ensure greater service accountability and network resilience, several MPs said yesterday.

They called for this during the debate in Parliament over the Ministry of Communications and Information's spending plans, which will continue today.

The ministry is also expected to respond to their questions and comments today.

Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC) raised concerns about poor 3G mobile coverage indoors even though more advanced 4G services have already been rolled out extensively here.

For instance, some people still cannot receive 3G signals in their own homes or in underground carparks, he pointed out.

He asked what the ministry is doing to improve the resilience and reliability of telco infrastructure, so as to "ensure that the mobile operators provide consumers with quality mobile services".

He also asked if any minimum standards would be set for 4G services.

Currently, industry regulator Infocomm Development Authority requires at least 85 per cent 3G mobile coverage on all floors in buildings, including carparks on basement one. But these standards have yet to be applied to 4G services.

Workers' Party (WP) MP Png Eng Huat (Hougang) also asked if more could be done to make telcos more accountable for wrongful billing.

This includes billing by third-party mobile content providers, which send unsolicited premium-rate text messages and those that peddle ringtones and games that attract premium charges.

More than one MP also asked for greater clarity on Singapore's cyber security efforts to counter rising threats.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) cited the high-profile digital attack on United States- based Sony Pictures last Novemberas an example of a cross-border incursion that could threaten Singapore's infrastructure.

Singapore has had its share of cyber woes, too, including attempts to bring down government websites and the defacement of the Prime Minister's Office and Istana webpages in November 2013.

"How have we progressed since these incidents?" asked Mr Zaqy.

WP chief Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC) applauded the new Cyber Security Agency (CSA), which will be set up next month to coordinate public- and private-sector efforts to protect national systems, such as those in the energy and banking sectors.

But implementation details have been lacking so far. Of interest to Mr Low is how the CSA will work with the existing security set-up, such as the National Security Coordination Secretariat within the Defence Ministry, to coordinate countermeasures against threats.

Another issue raised in Parliament yesterday involved the public-sector telco network, which the Government plans to build for its smart nation initiative.

But Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam from the WP asked if the Government really needed to incur the cost of owning key parts of such a network, and if smart nation applications can be built on existing telco infrastructure.

Noting that a Government-owned network is not necessarily more secure, he added: "How will the Government ensure that its dedicated network does not end up with excess capacity, while the public networks become increasingly clogged?"

This article was first published on March 10 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.