StarHub, M1 may bid for fibre broadband installation contract

Contractors from OpenNet installing the fibre broadband network in the Tampines estate in 2012. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Contractors from OpenNet installing the fibre broadband network in the Tampines estate in 2012. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

Moves are being made to speed up the installation of fibre broadband for businesses, with possibly StarHub or M1 chipping in to help after OpenNet came under fire for persistent delays.

The fibre broadband network builder last month called for a tender for contractors to help install fibre links in a bid to clear a backlog of unfulfilled business orders.

Confirming the tender, OpenNet said the contracts will be for one year, for a start. "If the results are good, we will look forward to extending this arrangement," said Mr Daniel Ho, OpenNet's director for business development and communications.

Mr Ho would not disclose the value of the tender, which closes in mid-June, citing confidentiality reasons. Sources, however, told The Straits Times the contract could be worth up to $3 million.

At least two Internet service providers (ISPs) that resell OpenNet's fibre links to end users are interested in bidding for the contract. They are now reviewing the terms.

"We intend to apply to be a contractor to OpenNet to deliver the benefits of fibre to more customers," said an M1 spokesman.

StarHub will also respond to OpenNet's call, saying that working with more contractors is the way to go to ease delays.

"Enterprise customers need reliable and timely services but they are facing delays in service provisioning by OpenNet," said a StarHub spokesman.

Both telcos had offered their help to OpenNet in 2012 to ease service activation delays but they were turned down.

Persistent delays in delivering fibre orders to businesses resulted in OpenNet being fined $240,000 by the Infocomm Development Authority last month.

In the second and third quarters of last year, OpenNet connected only about half of all business orders - short of the required 80 per cent - within four weeks. It also fulfilled less than 75 per cent - instead of all - within eight weeks.

OpenNet attributed delays to the refusal of building managements to grant access to in-house fibre links.

Having ISPs as contractors will allow OpenNet to use their existing relationships with building managers and owners for faster access approval, said OpenNet's Mr Ho.

These delays have led to customer cancellations with ISPs like StarHub, M1, ViewQwest and MyRepublic.

Some business customers, fed up with waiting for OpenNet to connect them, have turned to SingTel's hook-up for wholesale fibre links, which takes just 15 days - twice as fast as the time needed by OpenNet.

SingTel can be faster as it has its own fibre links to commercial buildings, and does not depend on OpenNet to make the connections.