Singapore's fibre network operator NetLink Trust fined, its controversial proposal rejected

Contractors installing the OpenNet cable in the Tampines estate. NetLink Trust, formerly OpenNet, was fined $50,000 for failing to meet its standards for delivering home users' fibre orders during the first six months of this year. -- ST PHOTO: ASHLE
Contractors installing the OpenNet cable in the Tampines estate. NetLink Trust, formerly OpenNet, was fined $50,000 for failing to meet its standards for delivering home users' fibre orders during the first six months of this year. -- ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

SINGAPORE - The ability of fibre broadband users to get services in time is once again up in the air, after the authorities threw out a controversial proposal by the company operating Singapore's high-speed fibre broadband network.

On Wednesday, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) also slapped NetLink Trust, formerly OpenNet, with a fine of $50,000 for failing to meet its standards for delivering home users' fibre orders during the first six months of this year.

Delays have been plaguing the fibre broadband network operator for four years now, prompting the IDA to impose new standards that kicked in in January last year.

For a series of installation delays affecting home and business users last year, NetLink Trust had been given two separate fines of $200,000 and $240,000.

NetLink Trust proposed a controversial suggestion in June, to help it speed up installations.

It wanted Internet service providers (ISPs) to supply it with a forecast of the daily broadband orders they were expecting, so it could set aside the appropriate manpower to fulfil them.

However, if actual orders fell short of 90 per cent of the daily forecast, the ISP would have to pay a yet-to-be-decided "commitment fee".

Currently, ISPs - like StarHub, M1, SuperInternet and ViewQwest - book an appointment with NetLink Trust when they receive an order for broadband, and wait for a NetLink Trust worker to activate the fibre links before carrying out installations for a home or business customer.

On Wednesday, IDA rejected the proposal, saying NetLink Trust has yet to demonstrate how the measure would "more effectively meet the industry's needs and on a non-discriminatory basis".

IDA also said it has considered the "practical difficulties" of ISPs providing such committed forecasts.

The fine of $50,000 announced yesterday was NetLink Trust's third in two years.

For the first six months of this year, NetLink Trust failed to connect all home users within seven days of receiving their order, as required by IDA. It only fulfilled between 89.1 per cent and 94.85 per cent of all orders.

During that time, NetLink Trust also missed connecting 98 per cent of users within three days, as required. It fulfilled only between 85.34 per cent and 92.48 per cent of all home orders.

This fine is smaller compared to the last two as the margins by which NetLink Trust failed to meet IDA standards were much smaller this time.

Comparatively, as few as 2 per cent of home users' orders were fulfilled within three days in May 2013, and only one-third of all orders were met within seven days in June 2013.

Mr Ng Yong Hwee, chief executive officer of NetLink Trust, said it is heartened that IDA has recognised its efforts in speeding up installation when determining the fine.

For instance, he noted, it has increased installation capacity during IT shows and extended service provisioning to Saturdays.

itham@sph.com.sg