S'pore 'has resilient telecom networks'

SINGAPORE has "resilient" telecommunication networks - despite the absence of a second set of connections to all homes and offices - the Infocomm Development Authority said on Wednesday.

The IDA assured the public that enough back-up is in place to cope with events such as the Oct 9 fire at SingTel's Internet exchange at Bukit Panjang, which took down critical services across the island, from banking to health records retrieval.

Home broadband users including those of SingTel, StarHub and M1 were also cut off from the Internet, as the fire damaged national fibre broadband network builder OpenNet's cables housed in the same premises.

The IDA's comments came after the public criticised the country's lack of a back-up plan. It took more than a week to fully restore broadband services for home users, although all affected business customers had their connections restored after two days.

The IDA declined to comment on the speed of service recovery pending an investigation, but a spokesman said the diversity of operators here contributes to resiliency.

He said business and home users have more than 20 Internet service providers to choose from, and can select ADSL, cable and fibre fixed-line broadband platforms as well as 3G and 4G mobile networks.

Internet exchanges are also designed with different paths. Fibre cables come into the exchange via three to four lead-in pipes. When one lead-in pipe is damaged, as was the case in the SingTel fire, the cut-off cables can be physically reconnected to other cables in unaffected pipes without laying new cables.

The IDA spokesman said, however, that these factors cannot guarantee there will never be service failures and what matters is "a good recovery plan".

Addressing criticism that Singapore lacks a duplicate broadband infrastructure, the IDA said this is a balance between risk and cost management. For instance, there is no second set of water pipes supplying all homes here.

He added: "When we finish our investigations, there may be lessons we can learn."

Responding to public concerns that OpenNet's proposed sale to a SingTel-owned business trust would make Singapore even more reliant on one telco, he said: "Ownership and resiliency are two separate issues. Regardless of who owns the networks, there must be diversity and redundancy built into the networks to enhance resiliency."


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.