Strong Economic Development
Singapore, though it is one of the smallest countries of ASEAN in terms of size and population (with only 4.3 million people in 2004, less than 1% of the total for ASEAN), is the most economically developed country in the region, with an average GDP per person of US$24,300 in 2004. Over many years the Singapore government has encouraged investment in infrastructure and technology that will help in maintaining the country’s economic advantage. For example, producers of power cables and accessories will be very aware that this country, despite its small size, is one of the world’s major markets for extra high voltage cables, as virtually all the power network infrastructure in Singapore has been installed underground.
Two Existing Access Networks
The main fixed line telecom operators in Singapore with extensive access networks are SingTel and StarHub. SingTel is the partially privatised successor to the state owned incumbent telco that existed before the Singaporean market began to be opened to greater competition, so SingTel has inherited a well-established access network, mainly consisting of copper pairs. StarHub is a new entrant that in 2001 merged with Singapore Cable Vision, a CATV operator, which in the late 1990s built an extensive hybrid fibre-coax network.
StarHub thus acquired a cable network that is independent of the SingTel system. A few years ago it seemed likely that an alternative to the SingTel and StarHub access networks might emerge. SP Telecom, the telecom operation of Singapore Power, was very actively promoting Powerline technology, but this appears to have been quietly shelved, as major investment would have been required to upgrade equipment.
No Great Enthusiasm for FTTH
The country’s government is very keen to promote Singapore’s image as a high technology nation. In view of this bias and of the small size of the country, with much of the population living in apartment blocks or compact urban developments, the island-nation would seem to be an obvious candidate as an “early adopter” of FTTH. In practice, however, FTTH is not being pursued at all vigorously. It is interesting that at a FTTH Asia-Pacific Council meeting recently, it was a speaker from Singapore who sounded a rather sceptical note, commenting that there were no strong driving forces for the introduction of FTTH in his country. The existing broadband infrastructure is adequate for current needs.