Singapore Budget 2015: Govt ownership of telco networks will ensure resilience and security, says Minister Yaacob

SINGAPORE - The Government's owning of key parts of a telco network is crucial to ensuring greater resilience and security, especially in Singapore's push to be a smart nation, said Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information.

Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, he said it is common for some components of a public-sector system to be partly owned by the Government and partly provided by the private sector. He was addressing concerns raised during the debate over his ministry's spending plans for the coming financial year.

Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam had 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.

"I am sure that Members will agree that they will prefer the data in the Smart Nation Platform to be stored in servers owned by the Government, rather than stored in private company servers," said Dr Yaacob.

Also, if Singapore's smart nation drive involves executing a host of public functions from public security to healthcare, it is important, especially in a crisis, that the bandwidth to support such data transfers is resilient, he said.

"These factors mean that it is not prudent for the underlying infrastructure to be completely outsourced," he added.

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

Responding to this, Dr Yaacob said that the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) tests the indoor coverage of a sample of buildings every month, and had in April 2013 significantly enhanced the in-building standard.

The regulator requires at least 85 per cent 3G mobile coverage on all floors in buildings, including carparks on basement one. Previously, the requirement only applied to public spaces on the ground floor.

"To date, all three mobile operators have met the in-building standard," he said, adding that the ministry would continue to review the framework.

itham@sph.com.sg