SingTel fire: Some corporate clients not seeking compensation

Telco forms committee to probe fire and suggest steps to prevent a repeat

DBS' branch at Rochor Centre. The bank's ATMs in areas like Eunos were affected. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
DBS' branch at Rochor Centre. The bank's ATMs in areas like Eunos were affected. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Some corporate customers whose services were crippled by SingTel's Bukit Panjang building fire last Wednesday are not asking for compensation even as SingTel forms a committee of inquiry to look into the incident.

The worst-hit bank, DBS, said yesterday that it "will not be seeking compensation" but would not elaborate.

An AXS spokesman also said the firm would rather focus on "how SingTel is going to provide for redundancy in the future".

After the fire broke out at the major SingTel Internet exchange - one of nine islandwide - bank users could not withdraw cash from a number of DBS and OCBC ATMs or make payments at a quarter of the 860 AXS terminals islandwide.

In addition, 18 of DBS' 80-plus branches could not hook up to the Internet to access customers' account information.

Banking services were fully restored by early Thursday morning last week.

But all the affected AXS machines were up only last Friday, almost two days after the fire.

DBS had earlier said it would follow up with SingTel on why the network contingency plan that it had signed up with the telco did not function as expected for the 18 branches affected by the blaze.

AXS had previously said that the amount of compensation it would be seeking would depend on the results of SingTel's investigations into the cause of the fire.

Two UOB branches and 11 OCBC ATMs were also affected.

UOB declined to comment on its ongoing discussion with SingTel.

Mr Eugene Lau, OCBC's head of group technology services, said the bank will not be seeking compensation.

"The fire had minimal impact on us," said Mr Lau. This is because most of its 600-plus ATMs and all of its 54 branches have built-in links to two separate Internet exchanges.

Such redundancy in its Internet connectivity has cost OCBC more than $100,000 every month since a network revamp in 2010.

Two-thirds of the 149 fibre-optic cables damaged by the fire belong to OpenNet, the builder of Singapore's ultra-fast national fibre broadband network.

So the services of operators like StarHub and M1 were also disrupted since they buy fibre links wholesale from OpenNet.

About 500 fibre customers of StarHub and 300 customers of M1 faced connectivity issues on Monday, but the number dropped to "a small number" for StarHub and 100 for M1 as of yesterday. Both telcos added that they were working on details of compensation.

Yesterday, SingTel said it has formed an independent board committee of inquiry (COI) to look into what caused last Wednesday's fire.

The panel will also review the effectiveness of the company's incident management and response, and benchmark its current network design and contingency processes against international best practices. It is expected to recommend steps to prevent a similar recurrence in future.

"We recognise the importance of resilient network infrastructure to Singapore's status as a leading financial and business hub," said SingTel chairman Simon Israel, in a statement. "In the interest of transparency, the board will make the COI findings and recommendations public," he added.

The COI is chaired by Mr Bobby Chin Yoke Choong, an independent director of SingTel and chairman of its risk committee. He was previously the managing partner of consultancy firm KPMG Singapore.

Mrs Fang Ai Lian, chairman of SingTel's audit committee, and Mr Low Check Kian, a member of SingTel's corporate governance and nominations committee, are also in the COI.

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