Government to get own telecoms network in smart nation push

A telecommunications network solely for public-sector use is being planned to drive Singapore's smart nation agenda.

This is a departure from the norm as the Government typically leases connectivity rather than own such networks.

The new infrastructure will run the equipment for linking, among other things, a network of sensors slated to be rolled out islandwide 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 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), which is looking for contractors to design and build this backend 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 - is owned by 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 concern over potential loss of business. "It will no longer be business as usual. The competitive landscape will change significantly, and this change is initiated by... the regulator itself," said Mr Benjamin Tan, managing director of SuperInternet, which sells high-speed connectivity to government agencies. Singtel and StarHub declined to comment. The IDA spokesman said there will be no conflict of interest.

Mr Mike Ang, president of the Association of Telecommunications Industry of Singapore, said: "Some existing telcos' business may be reduced presumably for security reasons. The question is, At what point does security justify the cost of such a set-up?"

The tender for the IP backbone closes on Feb 10.

itham@sph.com.sg