Ultra-fast broadband, ultra-slow service

SINGAPORE - Only about one in 10 fibre broadband orders from business customers was delivered as scheduled from June to August this year.

For the rest of the orders, network builder OpenNet either failed to show up or discovered problems that required fixing.

Of those delayed, half of the customers had to wait two months or longer, frustrating many who wanted to get on the ultra-fast fibre broadband network.

Delays have been plaguing businesses for most of the three years that OpenNet has been in operation. And the situation has become worse. In January, the company was at least able to meet four out of 10 orders on schedule.

Nucleus Connect - which resells OpenNet's services to most retail Internet service providers (ISPs) - revealed this to The Straits Times, citing data captured in its order system.

This comes in the wake of opposition by Nucleus Connect and five other ISPs to the planned sale of OpenNet to a business trust owned by rival telco SingTel, saying it fails to address delays in connecting customers and customer benefits.

The five providers are StarHub, M1, SuperInternet, MyRepublic and ViewQwest. They also complained about OpenNet's reluctance to provide regular updates, or estimates, on when its services can be delivered.

They said OpenNet often attributed delays to "insufficient capacity" and building management's refusal to grant access to in-building fibre links.

The Straits Times understands that the fibre network that comes to commercial buildings does not have the full capacity to support all tenants. This is to save on rollout costs.

Extra capacity has to be installed when demand exceeds supply, but this causes more delays.

Also, OpenNet does not distribute its network directly from its nine network exchanges islandwide to all commercial buildings in Singapore. For remote locations like Kolam Ayer Industrial Park or shophouses, its fibre links reach only one main building in the area.

That building then redistributes the links to all other adjacent buildings.

So if the central building cannot be accessed - because its management has put up resistance - then all the adjacent buildings cannot get their fibre broadband links activated.

This is why local IT services firm Bridge Integrity Services had to cancel its fibre broadband orders from MyRepublic. The company signed up for fibre broadband on behalf of its client located in Kolam Ayer Industrial Park in early July, but could not get any service for more than a month.

"We weren't sure if the problem would be resolved," said Ms Dianna Ng, project manager at Bridge Integrity Services.

Her client eventually signed up for a SingTel fibre broadband plan, which was delivered in two weeks.

Mr Robert Yu, regional manager of local machinery parts supplier Aesco International, said OpenNet workers did not show up on the installation date in late August.

The appointment had to be rescheduled to early this month, but he did not get connections until weeks later as the line had to be fixed. "To put it mildly, it was very unprofessional," he said.

When contacted, an OpenNet spokesman only said it was aware of the feedback, but was unable to comment pending the Infocomm Development Authority's (IDA) approval of OpenNet's sale.

An IDA spokesman said the regulator has been actively monitoring the situation and considers OpenNet to be in breach of its service standards. The IDA is waiting for OpenNet to explain the delays before delivering its judgment.

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